Local Talk News

NJ Citizen Watchdog Opposes Telecom/Cable Deregulation Bill

Calls On Legislature To Reject Bush Style Corporate Give-Away That Will Hurt Consumer

Local Talk News — Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Trenton — On Monday June 16, 2008, in testimony before the state Senate's Economic Growth Committee, NJ Citizen Action, the state's largest citizen watchdog organization, called on members of the legislature to reject A.2906 (Chivukula)/ S.1886 (Lesniak/ Sweeney), a bill that is being fast tracked through the NJ Legislature.

The bill proposes to strip the Board of Public Utilities of its oversight functions with respect to mergers, acquisitions, line sales, franchise transactions, stock or bond sales, or other specified transactions of telecommunications or cable TV holding companies.

"This bill is another attempt by huge corporate media giants to steamroll through a bill to get rid of government oversight," said Ev Liebman, NJCA Director of Organizing and Advocacy. "We are urging the legislature to protect consumers by rejecting this bill which if passed could lead to more market power, higher costs for consumers, degradation of service quality and negatively effect cable and telecommunication employees".

S1886/A2906 was introduced a little over a week ago on June 5, 2008 and was passed the very same day by the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee. Now, despite very little if any real opportunity to thoroughly review the bill, it is being rushed through the Senate Committee on Economic Growth.

Given all the potential consequences of such far-reaching and sweeping legislation, it is alarming that the legislature would want to silence the public's voice and shut out our societal interests in these matters by rushing through this legislation.

"This is one more clear example of how special interest money influences the legislative process," said Liebman. "We estimate that in the last two years alone, cable and telephone companies have spent at least $9 million in state level lobbying expenses and campaign contributions. While they have the right to make their case, our elected representatives should not let them use their enormous wealth to dominate the process".

Like in any utility industry, transactions in the cable and telecommunication industries need to be fully vetted by the Board of Public Utilities to insure that the public's interest is being protected, that these transactions are actually beneficial to consumers (not just shareholders), that obligations to employees are not harmed, that service quality will be maintained, that rates will be affordable and competition supported.

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