Idaho landline telephone companies may once again have the ability to make solicitation calls to their existing customers. House Bill 55 passed in the Idaho House of Representatives Wednesday, 65-5, and will now go on to the Senate.
“There has been a lot of confusion about this bill, and some explanation is warranted,” said Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens. Barbieri spoke in favor of the bill, which, if it becomes law, will allow landline telephone companies to once again call their existing customers and solicit other services. “Current law only permits this type of call to businesses that have an ongoing relationship with the telephone company,” Barbieri noted. “This bill will treat all businesses the same; it does not discriminate.”
Last month, the House State Affairs Committee was introduced to the legislation by Jim Clark, a former member of the House of Representatives who now works for Frontier Communications. “My company is trying to move in to the high-speed Internet business, and this bill will allow us to do that more effectively. As is stands right now, we can’t even call our existing customers,” Clark told the committee.
That’s why he and his company, along with CenturyLink communications, took up efforts to amend a law that dates back to 2000, a law that is often referred to as the “Do Not Call” law.
Back in 1999 and 2000, US West was the dominant landline telephone company in Idaho. And in 2000, the Legislature and Gov. Dirk Kempthorne agreed that allowing US West to continue to place soliciting calls to its existing customer base gave the company an unfair advantage over other telecommunication companies that might emerge in the state, so the “Do Not Call” law was enacted.
But today, to note two examples, things are different. The US West telephone business in Idaho has since been purchased by Louisiana-based CenturyLink, which now combines telephone and broadband Internet service. And what used to be Verizon landline telephone services is now Frontier Communications.
Yet Frontier and CenturyLink are still beholden to the “Do Not Call” law, even though they are offering both telephone and Internet service and despite the fact that cable television companies are now competing against them, and offering landline telephone service.
“It is only reasonable to allow these telephone companies to call their existing customers,” Barbieri told IdahoReporter.com at that time.
Yet, according to reports from the Associated Press, the Idaho attorney general’s office may prove to be a strong voice of opposition to Clark’s proposals.
Despite the approval of the House, the Idaho attorney general’s office has been opposed to such deregulation.“People didn’t take the time to sign up on the ‘Do Not Call’ list to have the phone company now call them during their dinner hour,” noted Brett DeLange to the AP. DeLange heads up the Idaho attorney general’s consumer protection bureau, and said that “our office has never had one person call us and say, ‘We’d like to be called some more.’”