Save Jersey: The Telco Deregulation Bill and the Biased Groups Who Lie About It

If you frequent the New Jersey focused news sites (which you obviously do), you for sure have noticed the advertisements lately that have been smearing The Market Competition and Consumer Choice Act. This bill alters State regulation of competitive services provided by telecommunications and cable television companies. As the law stands today, our state regulations are older than the phone below. Remember those?

Recently the Star-Ledger had a story about a study released by two left-leaning think tanks New Jersey Policy Perspective and Demos. This study is a last-ditch effort by left wing groups to stop S. 2664 and calls the bill radical. The study was written by failed New York politician and Working Families Party (ACORN’s political arm in New York) attorney Richard Brodsky. It is the companion bill to A.3766, which passed 66-7.  66-7 doesn’t sound to radical for us New Jerseyeans, but then again we aren’t from New York. It is worth pointing out that this is all part of a campaign seemingly led by two special interest groups – New Jersey Citizen Action and AARP, according to the Daily Record.

Now we have two issues with this study. The first one is substantive. Deregulation is often a good idea, and certainly, there are too many regulations in New Jersey already. That’s part of why we elected Chris Christie. And if AARP and other liberal think tanks can bring in out-of-state failed politicians to write studies about it, let us look at a study from professors at Ball State University who pointed out that deregulation was a success in Indiana.

New business activity in the Hoosier State is resulting in thousands of new jobs in the telecommunications industries themselves thanks to deregulation. And as the availability of broadband becomes more prevalent across the state, it fully is expected that huge job growth will be created by companies and entrepreneurial individuals with good business sense and clear understanding of the benefits of broadband and advanced communications capacity when deciding the jurisdiction to locate and/or expand a business.

The Ball State study also pointed to plenty of evidence of competition. The upshot is that deregulation can help build better competition, which in turn helps consumers and taxpayers.

So our second issue is who is fighting this bill? Or, perhaps the better question is, who is paying for this study? Clearly, this bill passed the Assembly by huge margins and has bipartisan support. That scared someone enough to start fighting it. They got some failed New York politician to write a quick study, or at least put his name on it and give it the credence of credibility. That must have cost something. I doubt that either AARP or Citizen Action have the coin lying around to do this, especially given the odds and frankly, the subject of the bill. We think some enterprising reporters or politicians ought to ask that question because the study, or at least the copy of it that we saw, didn’t pass the New Jersey smell test.

The opposition to this bill is claiming that it would hurt seniors (hence the AARP involvement) and would raise prices and hurt consumer protections. However, the bill keeps a number of important protections intact, such as:

Protections generally applicable to other consumer goods and services (i.e., existing consumer protection, public safety, and unfair and deceptive trade practice provisions of New Jersey law).

  1. Provisions necessary to comply with federal mandates.
  2. Provisions governing important social programs (e.g., Lifeline services; relay services for the hearing and speech impaired, and 9-1-1 and enhanced 9-1-1 services).
  3. Provisions necessary to ensure the efficient functioning of the communications industry (e.g., the State would retain the authority to issue and renew system-wide video franchises, although the now unnecessary regulations imposed on franchisees would be greatly reduced).
  4. Provisions necessary to control isolated instances in which a provider may be able to exercise undue market power (e.g., intrastate access)

In addition to maintaining these fundamental protections that are covered in other areas of law, the deregulation will also have positive effects on the market and ultimately the consumer’s experience with these services. The fact is that the telecommunications market is now far more competitive than it ever has been before. Our laws in New Jersey have been in effect, and not updated, since the days of Ma Bell! The idea that these lefty groups are pushing, that nothing in the market has evolved and these outdated laws are necessary to “protect” us is a complete joke. This bill will, just as it did in Indiana, bring in new investment and even more competition to New Jersey. In the end that can only be a good thing for us all.

For anyone particularly interested, there is a petition going around the internet for support of this legislation over at Americans for Tax Reform. Urge your State Senators to support this bill despite the liberal lies out there trying to protect the status quo.

Crossposted at SaveJersey