Tennessee Senate approves AT&T deregulation bill

The Tennessee Senate approved a bill Monday to deregulate pricing for basic phone service in the state, but some lawmakers are unhappy at how it was done. The bill is now up for debate in the state House Commerce Committee.

Passing by a vote of 22 to 7, some lawmakers wanted the bill to be delayed to allow officials with the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA) to answer questions on the impact of the bill upon regional calling and how it might affect elderly consumers. One unhappy lawmaker wondered aloud "what are we trying to cover up?"

Opponents of the bill are concerned that, once passed, price increases could occur that will affect consumers. AT&T says competition with Comcast and Verizon cellular service will keep its rates down.

A concession was made to rural concerns, with rate changes delayed for a year in most rural areas. After a year, AT&T would have to convince TRA that there was sufficient competition to move off its current price regulation model. If TRA refuses, AT&T will have the ability to unilaterally raise rates in 2015.

For more:
- Chattanooga Times Free Press reports on TN state Senate vote.  Article.

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Southern telecom deregulation marches on
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