Rewriting telecom laws on Colorado lawmakers' radar
By Andy Vuong
The Denver Post
Colorado legislators are attempting to modernize the state's
telecommunications laws, introducing a measure Monday that lays
the groundwork for the elimination of rate regulation over basic
Senate Bill 262 would order the Colorado Public Utilities
Commission, beginning in 2013, to withdraw price controls in
areas that have had access for two or more years to at least
three phone-service options, which include wireless and
The PUC currently controls retail pricing only on no-frills
basic phone service.
The bill preserves the commission's jurisdiction over quality of
service and authority to impose civil penalties for violations
on regulated basic and 911 service.
SB 262 also would phase out a subsidy that reimburses Qwest and
other carriers for providing phone service in remote areas where
costs may exceed revenue.
The so-called high-cost fund collects about
$60 million annually in the form of a phone-bill surcharge on
both land-line and wireless service that's generally less than
$1 a month. The bulk of that money is reimbursed to Qwest, the
largest land-line provider in Colorado.
Sen. Mark Scheffel, R-Parker, and Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle
Rock, are co-sponsors of the bill.
Jim Campbell, vice president of regulatory and legislative
affairs for CenturyLink, which recently acquired Qwest, said the
measure falls short of its attempt "to reduce Colorado's regulatory environment and to
encourage investment in the infrastructure of our state."
"Unfortunately, the bill that was introduced falls short of the
mark and, in its present form, will increase regulation,
discourage investment and slow broadband deployment in rural
Colorado," Campbell said in a prepared statement.
AT&T Colorado president Bill Soards said the measure would be
the first significant rewrite of telecom laws since before the
proliferation of cellphones. He said the last major update came
AT&T offers wireless service in Colorado but does not
provide land-line service in the state.
"Having a regulatory environment that reflects the current
marketplace reality benefits all of us," Soards said. "We can't
have technology laws that are stuck in the '80s."
Towns such as Parker fall under areas covered by the high-cost
fund, even though much of the town has access to wireless and
Internet-based phone service.
The bill calls on the PUC, beginning in July 2012, to
re-evaluate whether areas currently designated as rural or high
cost still fit the description. The measure would eliminate the
high-cost fund altogether by January 2031.
Andy Vuong: 303-954-1209,