Bill aims to expand broadband in Kentucky; critics say it would reduce land-line service

Feb 5, 2013

Advocates for more wireless and broadband options in Kentucky will once again push a bill reforming the state's telecommunications laws—specifically, removing language that requires old-school land-line service throughout the state.

Citizens for a Digital Future unveiled the legislation Tuesday, which is sponsored by state Sen. Paul Hornback, a Republican from Shelbyville.

The bill would allow phone companies to be unbound from state law requiring them to run land-line service in all areas of the state.  If a comparable voice service is in the area, including wireless options, companies could end their land-line services.

It has the support of various local and national groups who say wireless and broadband technologies need to be expanded statewide in order for the state to compete globally.

But opponents of the so-called AT&T bill— nicknamed after the largest company in support of the bill—say the bill allows telephone companies to stop land-line service to rural areas, where doing so is expensive.

Hornback said he's added a new component that allows areas with less than 5,000 individual home phones to keep their land lines to address those concerns.

"For the carving out, communities that have a prefix that has less than 5,000 tap-ons to it, are carved out of this legislation. Meaning this legislation will not affect them and they will operate like they always have," Hornback said.

Many Eastern Kentucky lawmakers and advocates for seniors, such as the AARP, successfully  lobbied against the bill last legislative session out of fear that land-line service to rural areas and the elderly would end.

And House Speaker Greg Stumbo says he's still leery of the bill, even with its new changes. But he adds that his chamber is still likely to review the bill.

Hornback said  that in other states where this change has been made, service has not been lacking.

"And you bring me one person, who has their line, who has had their wire line taken down and then their voice over service not comparable to what they had in the past. You bring me one person," he said.

The bill will start in the state Senate this week.