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Mar 03, 2006 - 03:45 PM

Cell Out, Take II

by Carmen Balber
Arnold's Public Utilities Commission (PUC) earned a zero in customer service yesterday when they passed a set of weak rules and tried to pass them off as cell phone consumers' rights. The plan won't protect cell phone users from any of their biggest complaints --- spotty service, confusing billing, deceptive advertising or exorbitant fees. The icing on the cake (for the telecom industry, that is) is that the cell phone companies get to police themselves for compliance.

With no power on the PUC's side for enforcement, and no ability for the public to hold cell phone providers accountable for screwing users either, the PUC's plan is a recipe for consumer dissatisfaction.

The PUC's proposal was crafted last year by then-PUC Commissioner, now chief of staff to the governor, Susan Kennedy. It replaces a much stricter Cell Phone User Bill of Rights that was passed in 2004, but thrown out when cell phone companies complained to the Gov. Arnold replaced consumer-conscious Commissioners with industry-friendly reps to undo the deal.

The Gov raked in $374,000 from the telecommunications industry while his Commissioners replaced the old rules with yesterday's non-protections. And Kennedy, as ArnoldWatch noted previously, received $25,000 in payments from the governor just two weeks after telecom giant AT&T gave the same amount to Arnold.

The end result? Californians will have no recourse when they find themselves in cell hell. On the up side, the PUC's move guaranteed Arnold the telecom industry's support as he begins dialing for re-election dollars.

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