Senate panel approves stripped-down telecom bill |

Senate panel approves stripped-down telecom bill

RYAN PEARSON, Associated Press

A Senate panel on Wednesday approved a stripped-down bill that prevents Nevada from regulating broadband services such as high-speed Internet.

The measure is similar to legislation introduced in several other states by telecom giant SBC Communications and was backed in Nevada by Sprint.

Phone service and cable companies objected loudly to an earlier version of the bill that many said would have essentially deregulated local residential phone service and flattened competition to former monopoly companies.

But many agreed to the stripped-down SB400 which passed the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee unanimously Wednesday.

Sen. Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, said both sides “came out bruised. Nobody’s really happy, so we’re doing the right thing.”

Sen. Warren Hardy, R-Las Vegas, said the bill would help protect consumers while allowing the Nevada Public Utilities Commission to decide when to regulate a certain service.

“We’ve got to place some confidence in the PUC to make some decisions and make some determinations,” Hardy said.

Tim Hay, consumer advocate for Nevada utility customers, had noted that under original language, the PUC would have been required to declare the Reno area a “competitive market” with SBC controlling 99 percent of all phone service.

That language was taken out in the final bill.

While cable company Cox Communications was pleased with the amended version, phone giant AT&T said it still hurts consumers.

“Today’s vote will not provide Nevadans with any choice for local voice services, high-speed Internet service, or advanced telecommunications services and Nevadans deserve better,” said Julian Chang, vice president of legislative affairs for AT&T.

The measure heads to the full Senate for a vote.