Landline telephone deregulation bill heard by House committee
Idaho landline telephone companies may once again have the ability to make solicitation calls to their existing customers.
“My company is trying to move in to the high-speed Internet business, and this bill will allow us to do that more effectively,” says Jim Clark. A former member of the Idaho House of Representatives from Hayden, Clark is now working for Frontier Communications, and wants to amend an existing Idaho law.
“As is stands right now, we can’t even call our existing customers,” Clark told the House State Affairs Committee Thursday morning. That’s why he and his company, along with Century Link communications, are pushing to amend a law that dates back to 2000, a law that is often referred to as the “Do Not Call” law.
The committee voted to send the bill to print, but it will be heard again before it has a chance to be debated on the House floor.
Back in 1999 and 2000, US West was the dominant landline telephone company in Idaho. And in 2000, the Legislature and Gov. Dirk Kempthorne agreed that allowing US West to continue to place soliciting calls to its existing customer base gave the company an unfair advantage over other telecommunication companies that might emerge in the state, so the “Do Not Call” law was enacted.
But today, to note two examples, things are different. The US West telephone business in Idaho has since been purchased by Louisiana-based Century Link, which now combines telephone and broadband Internet service. And what used to be Verizon landline telephone services is now Frontier Communications.
Yet Frontier and Century Link are still beholden to the “Do Not Call” law, even though they are offering both telephone and Internet service and despite the fact that cable television companies are now competing against them, and offering landline telephone service.
“It is only reasonable to allow these telephone companies to call their existing customers,” believes Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens. He told IdahoReporter.com that “I understand the origins of the law, but things are different today. They are competing with cable companies, so to amend this makes sense.”
During the committee hearing, Rep. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello, noted that “for my telephone service, I go through CableOne, but I don’t necessarily think of CableOne as a telephone company.” She asked Clark if, under the changes that he was proposing, CableOne would be able to place solicitation calls to its existing customers; Clark indicated “yes.”
Clark explained that he is seeking the “removal of language that restricts telephone companies from calling customers, and the addition of language that allows customers to ‘opt out’ of such calls.”
Yet, according to reports from the Associated Press, the Idaho attorney general’s office may prove to be a strong voice of opposition to Clark’s proposals.
“People didn’t take the time to sign up on the ‘Do Not Call’ list to have the phone company now call them during their dinner hour,” noted Brett DeLange to the AP. DeLange heads up the Idaho attorney general’s consumer protection bureau, and said that “our office has never had one person call us and say, ‘We’d like to be called some more.’”