That should have been a clear signal the speeches were more about partisan advantage than substance, but it didn’t prevent several other senators from taking to the floor to press their party’s side. In all, the debate took more than an hour.
When the Senate finally got around to the business before it on the orders of the day, it passed Senate Bill 99, the so-called “AT&T bill,” because it is supported by the giant communications company and others in the communications industry.
Sponsored by Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, the measure has twice previously passed the Senate but failed in the Democratic controlled House and would largely deregulate the industry in urban areas.
Companies like AT&T, Cincinnati Bell and Windstream want the freedom to move into wireless and Internet protocol or IP communications. But critics fear those companies will no longer guarantee land line service, especially in rural areas and to older customers.
While much of the service-buying market moves to wireless media, landlines remain more reliable and frequently preferred by older customers.
Hornback, however, said most of those concerns have been addressed in this year’s bill: the companies must continue to provide land lines to those who have them in rural areas. They would be free to offer alternative service, however, to new or first-time customers in those areas and would not be required to offer land lines in exchanges of 15,000 or more housing units.
In the end, the bill passed with far less debate than in previous years with four senators voting no: Democrats Denise Harper Angel of Louisville and Robin Webb of Grayson and Republicans Stan Humphreys of Cadiz and Albert Robinson of London.
Robinson said he actually favors the bill but his constituents “overwhelmingly” wanted him to vote no, and he’d promised to do so.