At our most recent meeting, we had members from PUC come and discuss with us House Bill 1608 and what it is all about.
This bill has many items that affect the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Speech Impaired and the elderly, as well as anyone who is using analogue equipment.
It asks for the deregulation of telephone companies. This will affect EVERYONE because that means there will no longer be consumer protection, and everyone will be at the mercy of the phone companies.
Deregulation means there will no longer be dispensary programs for disabled people who need special communication equipment, such as tty, tdd and captioned phones. Many of our elderly and disabled people are not able to afford the equipment or services that will come with deregulation.
Though the phone companies say this will "level the field", what it really means is that a lesser quality company can come in and provide very little service to rural areas, and not have to answer to anyone for poor service.
Along with lesser quality service and companies, this opens the field to greater possibility of our disabled and senior populations to be prey to scams and scammers.
How did this bill get proposed? During Hurricane Sandy, many of the copper lines, (also known as access lines) became damaged. Verizon was affected because their lines took a hard hit in some areas. Because of this, they concluded that since fewer people use these access lines, they do not want to repair or replace these lines. If someone moves into a new area, and these cables are not available for their equipment, no new lines will be put in.
With deregulation, analogue equipment will eventually just quit working.
Analogue equipment are not only tty, tdd and older captioned phones, they are also medic alert devices for seniors who need assistance when "fall down and can't get up". These older devices use the copper access lines.
It is interesting to note that cell phones and new mobile devices are not actually phones. They are considered "radio".
With deregulation, there will be no funding available for government groups to ensure consumer protection, or dispensaries of new compatible equipment for disabled, seniors and low income people who need accessible equipment to meet their communication needs.
I asked Shaun Parks of PUC, PA what we could do right now. He suggested we contact our PA representatives and voice our concerns regarding this bill. We as individuals, and we who belong to groups such as AARP and HLAA need to unite and express our concerns. This will affect everyone in the end, one way or another.
There is much more to House Bill 1608 than we realize.
I am currently waiting for information as to exactly who to contact, and when I have it, I will pass it along to you.
#AARP #HLAA #Communication #Accessibiltiy