Eight years ago this month, on February 8, 1996, the federal laws governing Americas's telephone system changed drastically. The new law promised consumers better service and more competitive pricing. Instead of a one-company monopoly, new choices would be available. The evidence of success is clear.
Consumers are saving. Recently, a 50-state study by the Phoenix Center (www.Phoenix-Center.edu, put consumer gain at from combined local and long distance plans at "approximately $10 billion per year." The Consumer Federation of America also documents significant savings.
Small business is benefiting. Last month, the CompTEL/Ascent Alliance issued a report showing that America's small businesses saved more than $4 billion in 2003 and could save more than $6 billion in 2004 from increased phone service competition.
Choices are growing. More than 15 million residential and small business lines are benefiting from the local competition made possible by the 1996 federal law that opened the nation's phone networks, according to a January 2004 study by the Promoting Active Competition Everywhere (PACE) Coalition.
Many of these national studies have state-specific figures.
In short, this has been a remarkable success story. But urgent problems remain: The Bell Operating Companies, (SBC, Verizon, BellSouth) are trying to get federal and state regulators to undercut key consumer protection aspects of federal law. SBC actually succeeded in securing passage of a law in Illinois last year to hike state phone rates - but a federal judge promptly issued an injunction.
Given the importance of maintaining this progress and the anniversary, we urge you to consider writing about this topic. For more information about federal law or its effect in New Jersey, please call me at 703-629-8552. Thank you.
Peter Arnold, Spokesperson
Voices for Choices Coalition