The Columbus Dispatch reports that Governor Kasich's proposed budget contains provisions that would allow Ohio to stop requiring landline phone service if the FCC permits it. Ohio currently requires that telecom companies provide basic landline services, but with the shift to internet-based phone protocols and mobile networks, landlines may eventually be phased out entirely. According to the Chicago Tribune, the FCC announced in January 2014 that it would allow telecom companies to begin pilot programs, replacing landline networks with voice over IP. Now, according to the Dispatch, the FCC is evaluating existing rules that require telecom companies to provide basic landline services and is expected to issue new regulations surrounding this issue soon. If the FCC does eliminate the landline requirement, then Ohio could move forward with this legislation. The bill would require that anyone affected have a "reasonable, comparatively priced alternative," and that telecom companies give 120 days notice before shutting off service.
According to the Dispatch, the language of this bill is very similar to a bill Gov. Kasich vetoed last year, with some minor changes. Advocates have expressed concerns about how this would impact low-income, elderly or rural Ohioans, arguing that while some positive changes have been made with this version, it still would allow many of these individuals to "fall through the cracks." A chief concern is that the burden rests on the impacted individual to show that he or she does not have access to the so-called "reasonable, comparatively priced alternative," and that a petition indicating this must be filed within 30 days of a shutdown notice.
Hearings on this portion of the budget began last week.
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