A little-publicized bill discussed during the recently-completed legislative session involved the deregulation of Qwest’s basic retail services. Senate Bill 37 was introduced by Sen. Cisneros and would have eliminated Public Regulatory Commission jurisdiction over the regulated telecommunications provider’s rates and terms for basic land-line services if it found “effective competition” in more than 50 percent of the provider’s market area, or if it has lost more than 33 percent of its land lines since 2001.
Sounds reasonable enough, right? After all, people — even living in rural areas — have many different phone services to choose from. Cell phones and cable providers are just two options, but when it comes right down to it, why should the PRC tell Qwest how much they can charge their customers? People who choose to live in far-flung, difficult to server rural areas should bear the extra costs associated with serving them, right?
Unfortunately, Sen. Lovejoy, PRC Commissioner Jason Marks, and apparently, several unregulated telecommunications providers, opposed the effort and the bill died. Sen. Cisneros has threatened to, rather than deregulating Qwest, attempt to bring these other telecommunications providers under regulatory control of the PRC. Hopefully, this is just a threat meant to neutralize the misguided opposition lobbying of these providers. New Mexico policymakers, wherever the market makes it possible, should be attempting to strip the PRC of its regulatory powers. This is because markets are far more efficient in terms of setting prices and “regulating” the marketplace than any politically-controlled regulatory agency.
Don’t give up Sen. Cisneros!