27,000 Phone Consumers in Danger!

Tiny - Posted on 02 March 2011

Over the past years I gave up using the landline.   Services with AT&T were too expensive.   As a privileged computer owner I have free domestic and long distant  phone service.  As for the approximate 27,000 people living in San Francisco under the poverty line, free phone computer service is just a pipe dream. 

A couple of blocks a way from the AT&T pay bill department was the community meeting sponsored by several community collaborative groups, just to mention a few TURN The Utility Reform Network, Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, Disability Rights Advocates, SRO collaborative, and California Alliance for Retired Americans. 

The meeting was to help keep affordable telephone service and the lifeline program, which offers basic phone service at a discounted rate for low-income consumers.

According to advocates of phone affordability the CPUC California Public Utilities Commission has drafted a proposal to eliminate phone services and discount phone rate service for individuals on fixed income.  Representing the CPUC at the community meeting was Commissioner Mike Florio former Executive Director of TURN. 

Currently the basic landline phone service is $6.48 per month.  This price is offered to elders, the disabled, families and individuals on a low fixed income.  However the CPUC has voted to increase this rate in the beginning of 2013.

“ Lifeline can sky rocket its rates”.  According to Kori Chen, Community Organizer of TURN, phone companies want to shift their revenue interest towards cell phones and internet service. 

This decision not only can impact the 27,000 phone consumers on fixed income, but may also eliminate phone service for those on a shoestring budget.  This means no more calls for 911 emergency dispatch calls or your basic day-to-day calls that help with everyday living. 

Is phone service going to be regulated, or “will it be subject to free market deregulation” Mark Toney Executive Director of TURN.  What is at stake is the consumer right to pay fair value of phone service, but the problem is that phone industry is making more money from cell phone service, cable service and internet service, thus landline service rates need a hike increase to be able to keep up with the competitive market.

CPUC Commissioner Mike Florio, shared his concerns, and wanted to make sure that he and others at the CPUC would make an effort to serve the public interest and not to serve the private interest.  Mr. Florio listened to the concerns of several community collaborators. 

Kori Chen had made reference to the, “The California Lifeline Protection Act”.  This act was drafted so that representatives in Sacramento can endorse the bill.  The protection act protects the Moore Universal Telephone Service Act enacted by legislature in 1997.  This act ensures that all Californians that qualify for lifeline have access to lifeline’s affordable rates. 

As phone companies keep trying to raise their rates, this bill would tie rate increases to cost of living adjustments, including people who are receiving Cal Works, Social Security and other government benefits.  TURN is mobilizing a trip to meet with legislation, and needs all the support it can get.  To get a better overview of the CPUC, Christine Mailloux, Staff Attorney of TURN gave us a historical rundown of the formation of the CPUC.

The CPUC was formed back in the 1900’s.  Their was only one phone company the CPUC regulated.  By the early nineties the commission has been finding ways to introduce more phone companies.  This resulted in the way services were regulated.  Following the mid two thousands events took place that began the process of deregulation. 

 Services like caller id, information, toll service (calling from San Francisco to Marin or Santa Rosa) began to increase.  The basic phone service remained regulated for the most part.  Increases by twenty-five cents were made here and there, while all other phone features were becoming more expensive. 

Other services affected by deregulation were the Public Purpose Program, lifeline service, the deaf and disabled telephone program, and the California tele-connnect fund, which discounts phone service for schools and libraries.  The CPUC was trying to figure out a way to change these services to accommodate new emerging phone carriers in a competitive market.  The CPUC’s had these basic services regulated so that people on fixed incomes could use the services. 

As the new definition for basic service was drafted new phone carriers, wireless carriers, and other wire line carriers were allowed to compete with landline services.  This forced landline service to increase its fees in order to compete with its competition.  New rates plans no longer reflect the basic standard of living.  Future rate plans will be determined by looking at all these new technologies, new services, and their new rates to come up with a fee the primarily accommodates phone / wireless companies, lowering the original standard used to assist folks on fixed income.

It seems like the root principles of corruption all have the same fundamental strategy.  Police brutality, Wall Street, the criminal justice system, gentrification, HUD, pharmaceutical industry, Congress, city planning, and the distribution of wealth.  Everything is all corrupt.  

“A hunger beggar roamed the fields and he saw a chicken.  The beggar killed the chicken and ate it.  Not to distant from the bagger was a king on his horse watching the beggar eat his chicken.   The king rides to the beggar and says, “Who are you?” and the beggar replies, “A hunger peasant. “ The beggar asks the man on the horse,  “Who are you? “ “ I am the king of this land and you ate my chicken.”  So the king gets off his horse and walks towards the beggar and the beggar ask how the king attain all the land.  The king responds, “I conquered, destroyed and took with my bare hands what I wanted” So the beggar tells the king, “So that’s how you became the king.”  The king responds, “ If you want something you have to take it.”  The beggar experienced a moment of “enlightment”, he grabs the king and finishes him off.

 Everywhere around the world change is happening, people are becoming more aware of the different forms of injustices.  We must fight back for phone regulation.  No to CPUC rate increases; Yes to phone regulation.

To Speak truth to Corporate and legislative lies on this issue- come out to speak up at the next PUC hearing.

Where: 505 Van Ness in SF

When: 2pm Wednesday , March 10, 2011

Your Voices Matter!



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