What We’re Up Against

Join the fight against special interest lawmaking!

The agents of the 1% have put their full weight behind AT&T’s deregulation bill, SB 1161 (Padilla). The bill mirrors legislation AT&T has successfully pushed in about 20 states to regulator’s ability to hold AT&T and other phone companies accountable for customer abuses. Under the bill, California would loose the ability to rein in phone companies for individual customer abuses or widespread violations. While AT&T already enjoys billions in profits, it fears that regulators may try to hold it accountable in the future, and that windfall profits into eternity are not assured.

Executives and lobbyists representing multibillion companies such as Cisco, Microsoft, Google, AT&T, Verizon, Cox Cable showed up at the Senate Utilities and Commerce Committee on April 17 in their thousand dollar suits to defend the bill as a boon to consumers and technological innovation. Their claims that the economy of California would suffer if the phone companies don’t receive extraordinary protection rang hollow. The Consumer advocates who came from as far as Los Angeles did the 99% proud and delivered the common message that customers of fixed interconnected VOIP services need basic consumer protections because all phone service will eventually transition to VOIP.

I want to offer special thanks to the TURN allies who spoke out against AT&T’s corporate law-making; Michael Richard of AARP, Sam Kang of Greenlining, Val Afanasiev and Daniel Rodriguez of Communications Workers of America, Inez Gonzalez of National Hispanic Media Coalition, Matthew Marcus of Division of Ratepayer Advocates, Sean Gallagher of Access Humboldt, Edyael Casaperalta of Rural Broadband Policy Group, Lenny Goldberg of Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Richard Holober of Consumer Federation of California, and Mark Toney of The Utility Reform Network.

It was clear that our testimony, combined with visits, phone calls, and emails from all of you, had an impact on the Committee discussion. Senators Kehoe, Pavley, DeSaulnier, and Corbet each pressed SB 1161 author Senator Padilla to modify the bill to clarify that consumer protections would remain in place for customers of traditional landline phone service. While Senator Padilla indicated his willingness to do so, he balked at preserving CPUC jurisdiction for customers of VOIP phone service. And yet, despite our most valiant efforts at convincing committee members to reject SB 1161, it was a sobering lesson in the combined might of the telecom and high tech industries as the bill passed unanimously.

The issue has been contentious at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) as well, with pro-consumer Commissioners Florio, Sandoval and Ferron urging the CPUC to recommend a no vote to the state Senate, but President Peevey firmly backing AT&T, even at the expense of his own Commission’s jurisdiction. At a rare CPUC meeting in Fresno, TURN’s Organizing Director, Ana Montes, and other consumer advocates, told horror stories about customers’ experiences trying to complain to the FCC, which would be the only option under SB 1161.

As I write this, the battle is far from over. Our consumer alliance showed up in Sacramento again on May 14, and despite the corporate money behind SB 1161, we were able to get the bill held in suspense. We’ll be calling on all of our members to help us defeat this particularly awful example of special-interest lawmaking, please join us by writing to Governor Brown today and urging him to veto SB 1161 if it reaches his desk.

Thanks for standing up for California consumers!

Mark Toney's Signature

Dear Governor Brown,

Public safety, service quality, and consumer protection should not be for sale.
Please veto SB 1161 if it reaches your desk.

Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160