Detailed review of Californian telecoms policy slashed from bill

by Steve Blum • , , ,

I’ll show you gut and amend.

An examination of telecommunications responsibilities at the California Public Utilities Commission has gone from being a specific study of agency duties, technological issues and, critically, broadband’s place in the regulatory mix, to being the sort of high level gloss that will gather dust on a shelf. The threat of a useful result no longer looms over cable and telephone incumbents.

As it was proposed last week, assembly bill 2903 had a long check list of broadband and other telecoms issues that the California research bureau was supposed to investigate by the end of next year, including…

  • What gaps, if any, exist in the state’s regulatory authority that are not otherwise addressed by federal law or regulation over telecommunications services, including, but not limited to, consumer protection and safety.
  • The state and local agencies in addition to the Public Utilities Commission that provide consumer protection and ensure the safety of telecommunication services.
  • The extent to which it is necessary for utility pole safety regulation to be governed by one regulatory structure regardless of the type of utility attachment.
  • How to ensure the effective administration of the Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act of 2006 [DIVCA].
  • The extent to which competitive telecommunications services are available in California and to what extent there are regions within California that lack competitive alternatives.
  • The role of the Public Utilities Commission in regulating the wholesale telecommunications market.

A bill that began as a classic gut and amend maneuver has instead been gutted itself.

The deletions are sure to please the incumbents. There will be no specific examination of the self-serving fiction woven by cable lobbyists that broadband, voice and video services delivered by cable companies are so radically different from the broadband, voice and video services offered by telcos that they need a completely separate – and toothless – regulatory regime of their own. That’s why the bits about unified utility pole regulations and DIVCA were taken out.

Eliminating requirements to look at competition in California’s telecoms industry is another gift to the telco and cable lobbies. They’re well on their way towards converting government granted monopolies on analog services into comprehensive control of the digital realm, and an independent investigation would be oh so inconvenient.

AB 2903’s author, assemblyman Mike Gatto (D – Los Angeles), has built an impressive record this term as an advocate for monopoly telecoms interests. These latest amendments will maintain that legacy as the legislative term – and Gatto’s career as a lawmaker – enters its final days.

This week’s version of assembly bill 2309
Last week’s version of assembly bill 2309