Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

The Return Of California's Telco Bill Of Rights

from the self-regulation-ain't-working-apparently dept

A year and a half ago, California passed a "Cellular Bill of Rights" to help protect consumers against some of the more questionable practices of mobile operators. The operators, of course, were not pleased. They claimed that self-regulation would keep the operators honest -- but years of hidden fees, unwillingness to fix dead spots (even when at home) and various systems to lock up customers in long term contracts even when service can't be provided suggests that self-regulation has failed in many areas. Still, a year ago, California tore up the cellular bill of rights, after the carriers challenged it. However, a year has gone by and apparently the "self-regulation" still isn't doing much, because we've now got a new California Telco Bill of Rights being proposed. It would create a special unit of about thirty people, whose only job would be to investigate consumer complaints about fraudulent practices by telcos. Not only that, but since this would cover all telcos (not just mobile operators), the proposed bill would also enforce network neutrality while requiring telcos to offer DSL without phone service (naked DSL). While this sounds like a very reasonable proposal, it's still a bit troublesome that this is only being set on a state level. The risk is that telcos suddenly have to abide by 50 different sets of regulations, one from every state. It would make a lot more sense to set something like this up at the national level to keep the telco oligopoly under control -- but our current FCC seems to simply roll over when it comes to telcos.

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  1. identicon
    Mark, 29 Dec 2005 @ 10:38am

    state and federal

    Myself, I'm more comfortable with regulation on the state level. Sure, it causes some complexity problems for the cellular companies, but we're talking massive conglomerates here -- I think they can find it in their budget to hire a compliance officer or two. Meanwhile, we've already seen that Congress and th FTC are categorically unable to regulate such things impartially; inevitably there's some powerful lobby whispering in their ears, and in many cases actually drafting the legislation. While those forces also operate on the state level, my gut-level feeling is that a state senator is going to be closer to his consituents and therefore somewhat more likely to act in their interests.

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