|Posted:||April 3, 2020 10:04 AM|
|From:||Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill|
|To:||All Senate members|
|Subject:||Removing outdated regulatory barriers to help close the digital divide amid the COVID-19 pandemic|
|In the near future I plan to introduce legislation modernizing and streamlining Pennsylvania’s regulations which apply to our landline telephone companies (telcos). This initiative is long overdue and is a fundamental component of our efforts to facilitate the deployment of broadband services in rural parts of the Commonwealth.
Over the last few weeks, many Pennsylvanians have had to turn to the internet to work from home, educate their children, seek medical care or apply for assistance and/or waivers from the state and federal government. We have heard from many individuals about the challenges this has posed and they have asked for the digital divide to be closed sooner rather than later as high-speed internet is needed now during the COVID-19 pandemic more than ever in our history.
Many of the regulations which exist in our Public Utility Code have been in place for decades while changes in technology and in the telecommunications marketplace have made these costly requirements unnecessary or illogical. Indeed, Chapters 63 and 64 of the Code have not been subject to any comprehensive review to examine their relevancy and application to the realities of today’s telecommunications industry. The days of monopoly landline telcos are gone, evidenced by the fact that Pennsylvania’s landline telcos provide less than 12 percent of total voice subscriptions in the state.
At a time when we are exploring alternatives to incent broadband deployment by private sector entities, a regulatory framework which diverts resources away from that investment and towards meeting antiquated regulatory requirements must be addressed. While the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has received comment on this matter from interested parties in October of 2018, it is time for the legislature to act.
Specifically, my legislation requires the PUC to permanently waive its regulations at 52 Pa. Code Chapter 53, Sections 53.57-60, 53.85 and all of Chapters 63 and 64, while retaining Commission oversight as it pertains to customer complaints, 911, relay service, slamming and cramming, and universal service. In addition, with the exception of the regulations just noted, the Commission will be required to review its telecommunications regulations every three years and eliminate all regulations that are no longer necessary or in the public interest and is prohibited from promulgating new regulations once voice subscriptions fall below 10 percent of total voice subscriptions in Pennsylvania.
Please join me in sponsoring this important legislation allowing our landline telcos the freedom and flexibility to offer our rural residents the broadband services they are demanding.
Introduced as SB1112