Schwarzenegger’s CPUC: Bought and Paid for by AT&T

The traditionally independent agency has become increasingly partisan under Governor Schwarzenegger, ignoring its mandate to protect utility customers.

For Immediate Release From The Utility Reform Network

Schwarzenegger’s CPUC appointees have presided over the most brutal attacks on consumer protections in the organization’s 30-year history, bowing to the wishes of the biggest political donors with devastating results for consumers.

TURN today said Governor Schwarzenegger’s California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) appointees have presided over the most brutal attacks on consumer protections in the organization’s 30-year history, and accused the Governor of repeatedly bowing to the wishes of his biggest political donors with devastating results for consumers. TURN said the traditionally independent agency has become increasingly partisan under Schwarzenegger, ignoring its mandate to protect utility customers.

"Governor Schwarzenegger’s CPUC appointees have routinely ignored facts, evidence and legal precedents when ruling on important telecommunications issues," said TURN executive director Bob Finkelstein. "As a result, consumers are being denied information, losing the ability to defend themselves against abusive marketing and billing and finding fewer and fewer affordable choices for phone service. At the same time, money from AT&T and others in the telecommunications industry is pouring into the Governor’s bulging campaign coffers."

TURN said key victories for the big telephone companies under Schwarzenegger include:

  • Phone Deregulation: At AT&T’s urging, the CPUC eliminated rules protecting business and residential customers from rate hikes for local calling, directory assistance and other services, as well as rules preventing rate discrimination against rural customers.
  • Bill of Rights: Reversed historic CPUC decision opposed by the cellular industry requiring contract and bill disclosures, curtailing early termination fees, and limiting unilateral contract change practices.
  • AT&T/SBC Merger: In granting SBC’s merger request, the CPUC ignored an important statute that required the company to share cost savings from the merger with their customers.
  • Veto of SB 440: The CPUC joined phone companies in opposing a bill vetoed by the Governor that would have required the phone companies to notify customers of their rights to dispute charges.
  • Video Franchise Rulemaking: Spearheaded by Schwarzenegger appointee Rochelle Chong, the CPUC’s proposals to institute AB 2987 ignore key statutory provisions designed to protect consumers in favor of a minimal set of rules intended to facilitate the rubber-stamping of franchises to anyone capable of filling out an application.

While the Commission turns its back on consumers, AT&T has opened its wallet for the Governor. AT&T and its affiliate, Cingular, have given over $200,000 to his campaign.