Consumer groups fight dereg proposal

TRENTON – Citizen action groups Wednesday lambasted the Senate bill strongly supported by Verizon New Jersey that would deregulate the telecommunication industry, saying the bill would ultimately raise rates for customers, lower the quality of the service and leave the door open for Verizon to sell off its landline assets.

“It gives Verizon everything and consumers nothing,” said Nathan Newman, who served as a consultant to the report that analyzed the bill.

Newman said the bill, S2664, doesn’t do enough to ensure that Verizon wouldn’t raise rates. He added that New Jersey already has one of the lowest phone service rates in the country.

Richard Brodsky, a former New York assemblyman who worked on the report, called the bill S2664, “a license to raise rates for average families across New Jersey.”

The group said that unlike other states – California, Indiana, and Ohio – the pending deregulation bill in New Jersey is very open-ended and doesn’t place any conditions on Verizon if they decide to one day sell its landline assets.

In an afternoon press conference, Gov. Chris Christie said he didn’t have an opinion on the pending deregulation bill, not having looked at it closely. However, he said his “philosophical disposition” is to lower regulations, adding that there needs to be “an appropriate balance” between deregulation and the rates a consumer would pay.

Advocates at the coalition press conference recommended that language be inserted in the bill that Verizon agrees to not sell off any of its assets.

Verizon New Jersey President Dennis Bone said earlier today the company has heavily invested in New Jersey, adding that the deregulation bill would increase capital investment in the state.

The advocates said, though, that past history shows when Verizon expanded its FIOS service in various states, those states sold their landline assets to private companies.  

Consumer groups fight dereg proposal