Governor Jerry Brown gives California telephone consumers a slam dunk
Thanks to your letters, phone calls, testimony and support, consumers throughout California scored three major wins for corporate accountability in the Legislature this year, and are headed to a major victory of national importance at the CPUC as well!
Governor Jerry Brown’s vetoes of AB 300 and AB 1409, together with the earlier defeat of AB 1407 in Senate committee, represents a slam dunk for California telephone consumers. These three very bad bills, sponsored by AT&T, TracFone, and Comcast, were deafeated at the hands of a unified and diverse coalition of consumer champions, faith–based organizations, media justice advocates, and other communities throughout California.
Special thanks for leadership go to CWA District 9, AARP, Greenlining Institute, Central City SRO Collaborative, COPE–San Bernardino, Consumer Federation of California, National Hispanic Media Coalition, Center for Media Justice, and CPUC Commissioner Catherine Sandoval, all of whom worked hard to protect California from unbridled corporate law-making.
We won because we were unified, vigilant, and refused to give up despite the overwhelming disadvantage of resources compared with AT&T, TracFone, and Comcast. The timing of these bills wasn’t accidental. The phone companies hoped to make an end run around the CPUC public process for expanding LifeLine to mobile phones. TURN and our allies stood up to them with proposals for much stronger consumer protections than LifeLine customers under the federal program enjoy.
As I write this, CPCU Commissioner Catherine Sandoval is sponsoring a proposal that approves most of the changes we recommended in the LifeLine program. In fact, Commissioner Sandoval’s proposal credits testimony from CPUC Public Hearings in Fresno, Riverside, Los Angeles, San Diego, Salinas, and San Francisco organized through TURN’s statewide PolicyVoice organizing project.
The changes demanded by TURN and other consumer groups are key to insuring California’s commitment to universal phone service while expanding the choices available to customers. Most importantly, rates for landline service will be capped, the subsidies phone companies receive will also be capped, and customers can qualify with state-issued identification documents, even if they don’t have social security cards. And the guarantees of affordability won by TURN will give customers assurance that their rates will remain stable, which is especially important for seniors and others on fixed incomes.
TURN will taking on the telecom Goliaths again in 2014. We’ll be making sure Comcast pays for violating customers’ privacy by publishing unlisted numbers, and just filed a complaint with the CPUC on behalf of 25 AT&T customers, alleging that AT&T’’s rates are no longer just and reasonable. We’re also demanding that the CPUC revamp outdated privacy rules that are insufficient in the age of smart phones. TURN works to protect phone customers on the federal level as well, coordinating consumer advocacy at the Federal Communications Commission with our allies in NASUCA, the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates.
While the telecom landscape is changing, TURN’s goals remain the same: affordable, universal phone service for every household in California, rural or urban, rich or poor. AT&T and the other phone companies will keep trying to chip away at that, no matter how high their profits go. TURN is determined to hold them accountable.
TURN has never shied away from a David vs. Goliath battle. We’ve taken on AT&T, Verizon, PG&E, Edison, SDG&E and SoCal Gas over and over again, winning lower rates, more accessible services and more accountable utility companies. We’ve still got more to do, which is why I urge you to consider an additional, end-of-year donation to TURN. We’ve delivered millions in savings for every penny you’ve donated in the past, and we’re going to keep doing it far into the future.
All of at TURN wish you the best during this holiday season, and a healthy and happy new year. Thanks again for your support,