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Report: Proposed bill to deregulate telephone service would raise prices, hurt consumers

Rates for basic landline telephone service would probably go up if a bill moving rapidly through the Legislature becomes law, according to a report to be released today by two interest groups.

The report, by the left-leaning New Jersey Policy Perspective and Demos, cites a 2009 survey by the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates that found rates rose in 17 of 20 states that deregulated the service. The increases ranged from 8 percent to 100 percent.

"Should the Legislature adopt legislation which has the almost overwhelmingly likely consequence of raising telephone rates for no good reason?" said Richard Brodsky, a former New York State assemblyman and one of the report's authors. "This will affect rural areas, senior citizens and cities most particularly, because that's where the bulk of the people still dependent on the old copper wire system live."

The report also said deregulated landlines would turn Verizon’s assets into a “cash cow” that it could sell off without regulatory oversight.