Interesting development for rural Ohioans

There’s a move afoot by phone carriers to stop providing guaranteed basic local phone service to every Ohioan.  It’s called “carrier of last resort” and it’s been a backbone of the phone system for years.  It’s SB 271 currently under consideration in the general assembly.

So what’s behind it?  And why should we care?

You’ve probably already guessed what’s behind it – money.  It costs money to provide service to rural Ohioans.  Often seniors or less affluent citizens, these people aren’t buying the expensive long distance packages and goodie bags of add-ons.

And we should care for numerous reasons.  The first, is that the phone companies are using the leverage of their deregulatuon from several years ago to go after this additional change.  But the last deregulation didn’t exactly go well.  The phone companies promised more jobs, but AT&T has fewer employees in Ohio today than the day the deregulation passed.  They promised a commission to review deregulation and produce a report, but no commission has even been named much less any report released.  Finally, they said service wouldn’t suffer.  They certainly can’t make that claim now.

In case you’re wondering if local phone service matters in this digital / mobile age, try driving through southern Ohio and see how your cell phone performs.  We’re even talking life and death.  9-1-1 service, and a person’s ability to get help depends on the phone company allowing access to basic local service.

Kentucky is in the midst of the same fight.  This isn’t even a partisan issue.  It’s one of common sense and public safety.  Even the AARP has weighed in, because many of those impacted will be seniors with no other lifeline to the outside world.

Stay tuned for more information coming on this.  It’s something we’ll be keeping our eyes on.

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