S2664, Verizon’s anti-consumer telecom bill – on hold

Blue Jersey heard from Senator Loretta Weinberg from the State House about an hour ago that the telecom bill pushed by Verizon – S2664 – is being held up and may not be voted on today – and that the bill may in fact undergo substantive changes. We’re hearing from elsewhere that Sen. Sweeney has pulled the bill from consideration for today.

There’s been a howl of protest against this bill and its Assembly companion over the last few weeks, particularly following a combined efforts watchdog report from New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP) and Demos that found the bill would result in hikes in the average phone bill, the elimination of key consumer protections.

Sen. Weinberg told Blue Jersey this morning that her offices were blitzed with calls on this bill – encouraged by the coalition led by NJ Citizen Action (NJCA) and AARP- urging a NO vote. The NJ League of Municipalities has also been messaging mayors to oppose the bill. Sen. Weinberg also told us that she got calls from the pro-S2664 forces, a Grover Norquist group that seemed to confuse their own members about the bill.

Quite a few NJ newspapers have had no trouble seeing through the haze:

  • Herald News called the bill, “ill-considered legislation goes too far too quickly and could leave citizens choking in the dust.”

  • Star-Ledger: “legislators shouldn’t strip customers of protections, or a cheap and basic phone service.”

  • Home News Tribune/Courier News: “Does anyone really believe that a Verizon or Comcast, their hands freed by fewer controls, would then offer the same services, or even more, for lower rates? We don’t. The vast majority of consumers don’t. But they’re not the ones pulling the strings in Trenton.”

  • APP urges NJ Senate: “Jam the signal on the telecom ‘choice act.'”

    Full disclosure: Blue Jersey’s running an ad from the coalition opposing this bill; we’d be opposing it even if we weren’t. The coalition is broad; you can read the partners here.

    Reaction from NJCA & more, after the jump …

     

    Ev Liebman, Director of Organizing & Advocacy, NJCA:

    S2664’s problems have come under tremendous scrutiny the past few weeks.  We are glad that after Senators heard from thousands of their constituents concerned about significant rate increases and elimination of key consumer protections, they decided to delay the vote. We plan to use the additional time to further bring to light the significant problems with this bill.

    The pro-consumer groups opposing this legislation call it one of the most sweeping anti-consumer telecom & cable TV initiatives in the country, and accuse the bill’s bi-partisan sponsors of trying to avoid public scrutiny. The Senate version was introduced on January 25th and passed in Committee 6 days later; the Assembly companion Feb. 4 and passed in committee the same day.  Committee members did not see amendments until the Committee meeting began.  

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