Wisconsin's revamped wireline voice service regulations met with a mixed reaction

Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill that realigns the state's telecom regulations on voice services--the first revision since 1994--but not everyone is happy about it.   

On one hand, the state's main incumbent service providers AT&T (NYSE: T) and TDS Telecom (NYSE: TDS) believe that the new bill will enable them to more freely redirect investments in traditional copper-based wireline technology to support wireline-based VoIP and 3G and 4G wireless services.  

Likewise, TDS, which is expanding both its consumer broadband and managed service capabilities throughout its diverse rural and urban territories, says the new regulations will enable to offer its customers "new product bundle and service opportunities for residential and business customers."

Walker said in a statement that the "law will allow the telecommunications industry to better serve Wisconsin's consumers and it will spur economic growth and job creation."

Among the new changes are that providers would not only be able to pay lower rates to connect to each other's networks, but also they would reduce the oversight the state Public Service Commission has over wireline voice service. The law addresses the wireline industry's trend where consumers are going completely wireless for their voice service or are defecting to a cable operator's triple play service package.  

However, consumer advocacy group The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) is concerned that because the new regulations eliminates the Public Service Commission's authority to regulate rates they could hamper consumers that live in rural areas where wireless coverage and wireline broadband services aren't as pervasive as they are in more urban areas.

"We're very worried that customers who have no choice in landline service will see either very high rates for that service or see that service disappear," said Charlie Higley, the executive director of the CUB.

For more:
- The Journal Sentinel has this article

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