In the wake of comments from the governor suggesting an end to the effort to deregulate the telecommunications industry, state Sen. Ray Lesniak said he will continue to work on amendments to assuage the concerns of the state’s senior citizen community.
On a conference call with some 17,000 members of the AARP, Gov. Chris Christie said he had “grave concerns” over the bill and its potential to dramatically raise landline phone service rates for seniors. Christie said he would not push for the bill, which sent a signal to opponents that the bill, which was tabled last month by the state Senate, would not see the light of day.
But Lesniak, the prime sponsor of the legislation, said he believes the bill can be salvaged.
“I’m working on amendments to protect seniors with land lines from any adverse impact from the bill,” he said after the AARP call. “If we can satisfy that concern, I’ll move the bill because it will increase competition, create jobs and attract billions of private investment in New Jersey telecommunications infrastructure which will benefit our consumers. If the amendments can’t satisfactorily address the governor’s concerns, I’ll withdraw the bill and New Jersey will fall behind the rest of the nation in telecommunications services for our residents.”
One consumer activist group, however, is not convinced that even a reworked bill will be good.
“New Jersey’s flexible regulatory system, negotiated by the Legislature in 2006, has resulted in the most affordable basic phone and cable rates in the country and the highest percentage of residents with access to high speed internet,” said Ev Liebman of New Jersey Citizen Action.
“Where are we falling behind and what in this bill suggests there will be any future commitment to investment? We don’t see evidence that it will create one job or generate one dollar, much less a billion dollars, for the state.’