Just got an alert from CWA's Carol Summerlyn, who is on the ground in Virginia.
Seems like Verizon is launching a sneak attack on consumers' rights, and word is just leaking out about their maneuver. The corporation is pushing legislation in Virginia which would exempt mergers among telephone companies from oversight by the state's Corporation Commission.
Under existing law, telephone company mergers need to pass muster with the Corporation Commission, which looks at the possibility of rate increases, changes in customer service, and more. The Commission acts on behalf of the public interest, and it can set conditions for mergers or block them entirely if they don't stand up to strict scrutiny.
But once that step is taken away, service providers will have free range to expand and contract, with major costs to consumers who suffer from lack of service. Consider what's happening in New England, where a Verizon subsidiary wants to merge with FairPoint, a local provider, putting those phone lines under FairPoint's direction. Before this can happen, though, three states involved have the right to examine whether consumers will be properly protected. This is standard procedure in nearly every state.
Through its aggressive lobbying campaign in Virginia, Verizon is seeking to eliminate this line of defense for consumers and protect its interests at the expense of Virginians. Already, Verizon has been able to push this anti-consumer legislation through the state House.
This fundamental change to business practices would hit underserved communities the hardest. Verizon would be free to dump its less-profitable rural consumers on to smaller companies unable to provide them with adequate services -- including high-speed internet.
In order to protect quality of service and access to high-speed internet, Virginia must defeat SB1143. If you live in Virginia, you can take action by writing a letter to your state senator.