The Rural Michigan Squeeze

chainedIt took a little time for it to sink in, but Michigan’s legislature may have made the same mistake with ATT, that was made with BCBS.

Consider the decades of [government enforced] monopoly protections and the ability to hang their lines exclusively prior to deregulation. A compact that allowed ATT to profit heavily through its stand alone status, was then modified to ATT’s desires during the breakup of the bell system in 1974. Also consider the effects on small rural operators that rely on ATT for service access.

In SB 636, there seems to be a sneaky little way to hurt the little telephone providers. When the requirement of land lines goes away, so will the service charge (access charge) associated with the upkeep of the lines. And the access provided by ATT goes away as well. But that doesn’t leave the small operators in a tenable position.  They may be stuck while ATT skates.

(6) After January 1, 2017, and only in an area in which a telecommunication provider either has given notice of a proposed discontinuance of service under subsection (5) or has discontinued service within the previous 90 days, a customer of that provider or any interconnecting telecommunication provider may request the commission to investigate the availability of comparable voice service with reliable access to 9-1-1 and emergency services to that customer or a customer of an interconnecting telecommunication provider. If the commission, after conducting an investigation to last no longer than 180 days regarding the availability of comparable voice service with reliable access to 9-1-1 and emergency services, determines that the federal communications commission failed to make a finding that the present and future public convenience and necessity is not adversely affected or has not adequately addressed the issue, the commission shall declare by order that an emergency exists in an area in this state that is not served by at least 1 voice service provider offering comparable voice service with reliable access to 9-1-1 and emergency services through any technology or medium and shall conduct a request for service process to identify a willing provider of comparable voice service with reliable access to 9-1-1 and emergency services in that area, including the current provider. A provider shall not be required to participate in the request for service process. The willing provider may utilize any form of technology that is capable of providing comparable voice service with reliable access to 9-1-1 and emergency services, including voice over internet protocol services and wireless services. If the commission determines that another provider is not capable of providing comparable voice service with reliable access to 9-1-1 and emergency services in that area, the commission shall issue an order requiring the current telecommunication provider to provide comparable voice service with reliable access to 9-1-1 and emergency services in that area utilizing any form of technology that the commission determines is capable of providing comparable voice service with reliable access to 9-1-1 and emergency services, including voice over internet protocol services and wireless services, until another willing provider is available. An intrastate universal service fund under section 316a shall not be created or used to compensate or fund a willing provider or current telecommunication provider to provide service under this section. 

Gosh, I guess they’ll figure a way out of that, huh?

We should assume the governor will sign this. He has never missed a beat when it comes to ‘big business’ desires to advantage their position over the competition through legislation. While the small potatoes service providers fall by the wayside trying to keep up, but are chained to posts in the ground, ATT can happily move along, and then pick up the pieces later.

Leaving no doubt that ATT and its lobbyists are smooth ‘operators.’

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