Three Wins for David Against Telecom Goliaths!

Thanks to your letters, phone calls, testimony and support, consumers throughout California are celebrating the end of the 2013 legislative season with not one, not two, but three major wins for corporate accountability!

On October 11, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed AB 300 and AB 1409, which together with the early defeat of AB 1407 in senate committee, represents a slam dunk for California telephone consumers.

The top three bills sponsored AT&T, TracFone, and Comcast all went down in flames this year 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.

AT&T–sponsored AB 1407 was an attempt to hijack the Wireless LifeLine program, eliminate regulation by the CPUC, and silence the voices of hundreds of people who had already testified at public hearings. Because AB 1407 had already passed the Assembly before it was repurposed through “gut and amend” into a telecom bill, we only had six weeks to wage an all–out campaign that resulted in victory with the bill dying in suspense in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

TracFone–sponsored AB 300 was designed to release prepaid phone companies from their obligation to collect and remit surcharges that fund the LifeLine discount program for low–income families, by shifting the responsibility to retailers, which would dramatically increase the costs for everyday consumers. While AB 300 passed the Assembly and Senate, vigorous opposition from consumer groups and the CPUC succeeded in winning a veto from the Governor.

Comcast–sponsored AB 1409, another “gut and amend” that was only repurposed at the end of July when AB 1407 was defeated, would have permitted non-telephone companies to collect LifeLine subsidies, clearly stripping the CPUC of any regulatory authority to enforce customer protections or service quality standards. While AB 1407 passed the Senate just making the mid–August deadline, vigorous opposition from consumer groups, our union allies, and the CPUC succeeded in winning a veto from the Governor.

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 fight is far from over and we must be prepared to do battle on behalf of the public interest again come January.