By 1996, much of the telecommunications industry was deregulated by virtue of a broad federal law. While certain aspects of the telecommunications industry are “off –limits” to state regulation (for example, the price of long-distance service), there are still some areas of vital regulatory concern that can be addressed by state regulators. Among those areas are:
- The rates for basic local exchange service ( despite almost annual attempts to deregulate in the General Assembly)
- Access to telecommunications service by low income individuals (Lifeline service)
- Consumer protection issues such as protections against slamming and cramming
- Service quality standards
- Protection from unwanted and nuisance calls
Certain issues may be handled by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). For example, the FCC has authority over interstate long distance service, wireless service, Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and determining eligibility of qualified Lifeline providers for federal funding. There is little or no price regulation for these services.
The Office of People’s Counsel is an advocate for residential consumers in cases before the MD Public Service Commission (PSC) involving telecommunications issues. Most recently, these cases have involved service quality, the extent of regulation of local service providers, the regulation of so-called “bundled services,” and local calling areas.
OPC also is able to represent Maryland households in FCC proceedings through our active membership in the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates (NASUCA). Pursuant to resolutions adopted by the membership, NASUCA frequently submits comments to the FCC on a variety of issues including long distance, broadband and Lifeline services.
Since there are overlapping agency responsibilities for other types of telecommunications services, OPC also works with the Office of Attorney General and other agencies to address consumer concerns.