The super committee hasn’t reached a deal on the debt. Unemployment is still solidly 9%+ overall – and much higher for minorities: 15.1% for African Americans and 11.4% for Hispanics. Freddie and Fannie tapped the treasury for an additional $7.8 billion in federal aid just last week, so if anyone thought the housing market was on an upswing, that notion was squashed. The tales of economic woe go on and on.
A few states are taking the local economy into their own hands and are developing legislation that they believe will spark growth in their state. Through these efforts, perhaps we will begin to see a form of ‘trickle-up’ economics turn this country around.
Also known has the Market Competition and Consumer Choice Act, this legislation eliminates what many believe are obsolete rules that are hampering economic growth, investment and new job creation in the state.
Currently, the BPU (Board of Public Utilities) has authority over all “competitive” telecom services. The existing telecom regulations were set up in an era before widespread competition among phone companies, cable TV operators, wireless phone services and internet telephony. Meant to ensure no one company was able to create a monopoly, the bill sponsors believe these rules have outlived their usefulness as well as their good intentions.
In New Jersey’s highly competitive telecom market place, landline customers have a wide range of choices when selecting service providers.
Over the past eight years, cable competitors like Cablevision and Comcast, or Internet phone services like Vonage and Skype have practically eaten Verizon’s lunch as the one-time monopoly player has gone from 6.7 million landlines (2001) to 2.8 million (2009). “The competition is fierce and the consumer benefits are real,” said Vera McIntyre, President of Communications Consumers United.
“There are no monopolies. Job well done Board of Public Utilities; but in the interest of increased investment and jobs – it’s time to revisit the situation. The furtherance of BPU authority over what should be a free market will only serve to cripple economic growth,’’ said CCU New Jersey member Lindsey Holmes.
As the bill is currently written, if New Jersey State Senate Bill 2664 passes it won’t do away with the BPU. The BPU is needed to maintain consumer protection and public safety provisions, regulate important social services like Lifeline and 9-1-1 as well as ensure competition in emerging technology markets. In its simplest form the bill says it is time to let the competitive, open market in New Jersey thrive.
Indiana, one of the first states to modernize its telecom regulations in 2006, commissioned a follow-up economic impact study (Ball State) that determined that within a year of reform, telecom companies had invested an additional $400 million and created thousands of new jobs in the state.
At least 21 states have enacted major telecom regulatory modernization reform in the past five years. By comparison, New Jersey has the most competitive telecommunications market in the country, but still has the most restrictive regulations on the industry, and lags behind other states in modernizing their laws.
The Market Competition and Consumer Choice Act will go before the New Jersey State Senate this week.