Legislature(2013 - 2014)BARNES 124
04/06/2013 03:15 PM LABOR & COMMERCE
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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HB 169-RCA REGULATION OF TELEPHONE DIRECTORIES 4:09:39 PM CHAIR OLSON announced that the final order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 169, "An Act relating to the authority of the Regulatory Commission of Alaska to regulate the production and distribution of telephone directories." 4:09:47 PM ANNA LATHAM, Staff, Representative Kurt Olson, Alaska State Legislature, stated HB 169 would eliminate the requirement for regulation and production of telephone directories by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska (RCA). Currently, the Alaska Administrative Code (AAC) requires the RCA oversight on the production and distribution of white page directories. She specified that this bill only applies to the white pages and not to the yellow page directories. With the widespread use of cell phones, people now create their own directories with address books on their phones and other mobile devices and no longer rely on white page directories. According to a 2008 Gallup survey, only 11 percent of households across the U.S. rely on white page directories. These directories are increasingly incomplete since they are cyclical, distributed only once per year, and do not include mobile listings. MS. LATHAM said according to the National Center for Health Statistics, in 2009, one of every four households did not have a land line and relied completely on cell service. She explained that many customers with land lines request their numbers be unlisted, and therefore, the phone numbers are unpublished; sometimes [the amount of unpublished numbers] reaches 40 percent. Consumers have expressed strong opinions about receiving printed directories and often return them. Many consumers express concern over environmental implications of distributing paper directories, which are immediately recycled. Finally, many places throughout the state do not offer recycling and these directories go directly to landfills. In an effort to modernize Alaska's regulatory requirements, HB 169 would allow telecommunication providers to directly meet the wants and needs of their customers. 4:12:05 PM REPRESENTATIVE RENIBLD moved to adopt the proposed committee substitute (CS) for HB 169, labeled 28-LS0593\U, Nauman, 4/5/13, as the working document. [CHAIR OLSON treated it as though he had objected for the purpose of discussion.] MS. LATHAM explained that the proposed committee substitute, Version U, eliminates [subsection c] and thus deletes the definition for "competitive local exchange market". The rationale was to streamline the legislation and eliminate the possibility of phone wars. 4:13:00 PM REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER said he uses the white pages. He asked if the RCA requires a telephone service provider to issue white pages. MS. LATHAM answered that all telecommunications providers within the state are required to distribute and produce telephone directories. In further response, she agreed this bill would make it optional. REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER asked whether any white page directories will be distributed once it becomes optional. MS. LATHAM recalled 16 states plus the District of Columbia have adopted similar legislation, but all have optional programs. Each state offers options to address the lack of a directory. She recalled Ohio has a call center and California requires every phone bill must include the phone number for customers to request a phone directory. CHAIR OLSON removed his objection. There being no further objection, Version U was before the committee. 4:14:29 PM LEONARD STEINBERG, Senior Vice President, Legal Regulatory & Government Affairs, Alaska Communications, stated that he would like to testify in support of HB 169, which he said will correct an ambiguity in the law. The Alaska Public Utility Act, AS 42.05, specifically describes the boundaries of RCA's authority. With respect to telecommunications, the statute precisely defines the technical characteristics of the services to be regulated. He said the RCA's jurisdiction does not extend to the production and distribution of telephone books, yet for years local exchange telephone companies have been required by the RCA to produce printed copies of white page telephone directories. This bill would provide needed clarification by removing this issue from the RCA's purview. Telephone books lack the usefulness they once had and are largely unwanted by customers. In fact, telephone directories do not include wireless numbers, or those used by Skype, Face Time or other voice-over-Internet providers. Numerous land line customers have requested their numbers be unlisted and as more customers use personal, digital, and Internet-based directories, customers have become increasingly upset about receiving unwanted telephone directories. The RCA recently granted partial and temporary relief from the mandatory regulations, allowing an opt-in for subscribers to request continued deliveries of white pages, but the results in Anchorage are very telling. Of 120,000 subscribers less than 5,000 requested continued delivery of the book from the prior cycle. 4:17:25 PM MR. STEINBERG said while the RCA has granted limited relief, the need for subsequent rulemaking means the final outcome is uncertain and will take at least four to five years of regulatory oversight and proceedings to determine. The additional proceedings would create unnecessary work for Alaska Communications Systems (ACS) and similarly situated companies and for the RCA, particularly in light of the questionable authority to regulate telephone directories. The ACS strongly believes AS 42.05.145 never contemplated the regulation of phone books and urges the legislature to act now to make that clear and to ensure that white-page directories are not subject to further regulatory oversight. He said ACS supports the proposed committee substitute for HB 169, Version U. MARK MODERO, General Communication Incorporated (GCI), stated that GCI supports Version U. CHAIR OLSON, after first determining no one else wished to testify, closed public testimony on HB 169. 4:19:41 PM REPRESENTATIVE REINBOLD moved to report the proposed committee substitute, (CS) for HB 169, labeled 28-LS0593\U, Nauman, 4/5/13, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSHB 169(L&C) was reported from the House Labor and Commerce Standing Committee.