Senate Passes Phone Deregulation Bill With Many Rural Lawmakers Opposed

Feb 14, 2013

FRANKFORT, Ky. - A bill that would end requirements on phone companies to provide landline services in parts of Kentucky where other options are available has cleared the state Senate.

Nicknamed the AT&T bill because of the phone company's support, the legislation was largely opposed by rural lawmakers who argue that the bill would end landline service to their areas without proper alternatives.

But Sen. Paul Hornback, a Republican from Shelbyville, said the goal is to expand broadband and wireless in those rural areas before Kentucky falls behind other states in having those services available.

"It's time we changed our laws to reflect that reality," Hornback said. "Other states are moving forward. The question is, will Kentucky keep up or we'll be left behind again by other states like Indiana and Tennessee."

The bill's opponents said that phone companies could keep their expensive landline services and expand broadband into rural areas, but are choosing not to.

State Sen. Robin Webb, a Grayson Democrat who opposes the bill, said the phone companies aren't expanding broadband service out of greed.

"It's about money," Webb said. "There's no reason they can't invest in both systems to give everybody access."

Supporters of the bill say it would not leave rural areas without phone services and would not go into effect in places that have 5,000 homes or less that use landlines.