OK Legislators, Regulators Seek Study before Tackling SBC Deregulation

Article excerpt

One way or another, the issue of deregulating SBC Communications in Oklahoma will be addressed during the next legislative session. Both legislators and regulators hope to be able to consider a study of the state's telecommunications market before making a decision.

State Rep. David Braddock, D-Altus, sponsored a Senate bill authored by Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, during the last legislative session that would have removed SBC's ability to set prices for its services from the state Corporation Commission's oversight. After a contentious battle in the Legislature, the bill was shelved near the end of the session to allow a task force to study how the legislation would affect the telecommunications market in Oklahoma. But in October, the task force recommended that the commission conduct a study of competitive issues in the telecommunications market and report their findings to the task force. Last week, the director of the public utility division of the commission formally requested such a study.

Braddock anticipates a similar piece of legislation will again be introduced during the upcoming session.

Commissioner Jeff Cloud, who also served on the task force, said he has not yet seen a schedule for how soon the study can be conducted, but was hopeful that the commission would have some answers for the Legislature on the matter before the end of the session.

I was under the impression that we're under the direction of having that back to them this next legislative year, said Cloud. No, that's not too much time. But I'm assured by experts here at the commission that it can get done before the Legislature adjourns next spring.

Braddock said it is possible legislators would move ahead with the legislation even before the commission is able to complete their study.

We're going to look real hard at the possibility of going ahead and doing that, said Braddock. The Corporation Commission has been talking about that, but I don't know where all that is going-And of course, heck, if they go ahead and strip away the regulations here pretty soon, that will make any need for a bill moot at that point, but we'll see. One never knows where the Corporation Commission is going to go. We'll just have to wait and see.

The commission is currently involved in the discussion on two fronts. In addition to the study requested by the Task Force on Deregulation of the Oklahoma Telecommunications Service Provider Industry, the commission is also considering some proposed rule changes that would also serve to remove more of SBC's operations from the commission's oversight. …