Push For Lax Telecom Rules In Idaho Holds Bad News For Elderly
AARP Opposes Move to Weaken Consumer Protections, Allow for Longer Service Outages While Removing Phone Company Penalties
BOISE, Idaho, June 5, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A move to loosen the rules for Idaho telephone companies could be bad news for residents with traditional landline phone service. And that's brought on strong opposition from AARP, who says lax rules would leave elderly in a lurch during service outages, especially in case of emergencies.
The changes being sought would allow phone companies to have service outages for longer periods of time, remove any penalties to the company, and lower the reporting threshold for the outages. The changes are being pressed forward by CenturyLink before the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC), with the backing of other Idaho phone companies.
In comments filed with the PUC late last week, AARP states its concern about the impact of the proposed changes on elderly across the state as people 65 and older are more likely than any other age group to have telephone service in their homes and more reliant on the phone lines in case of home or health emergency.
The proposed changes:
- Give telephone companies twice as long to repair outages (from 24 hours to 48 hours), and even more time if they occur over the weekend. Opposing the change, AARP reminds the PUC of the importance of landlines to the elderly, and the fact that home and health emergencies also occur over the weekend.
- Remove any penalties to telephone companies for not restoring service within the allotted period of time. Currently if service is not restored within the repair interval, customers can receive a one month service credit. AARP says removing the penalty leaves little incentive for timely repairs and erodes consumer protections.
- Lower benchmark for fixing outages. Currently, at least 90% of service outage reports must be fixed, the proposed changes would lower that to 80%. AARP says the lower benchmark could mean more consumers going without crucial service for a longer period of time.
Other claims made by CenturyLink – such as the assertion that its ability to deploy broadband suffers because its personnel are unreasonably diverted to repair work – are unproven and largely irrelevant to its obligation to maintain reliable telephone services.
AARP contends allowing phone companies in Idaho a looser set of rules regarding outages would harm consumers and lacks adequate justification.
The little known case is one more example of the need for Idaho to establish a Utility Consumer Advocate Office to ensure residential consumers are represented in complex regulatory matters. Idaho is the only state in the West without such an office and one of a handful nationwide.
The case and AARP's comments can be found online: http://www.puc.idaho.gov/internet/cases/summary/GNRT1203.html
AARP has 180,000 members in Idaho.
SOURCE AARP IdahoBack to top