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Pennsylvania Bill Poses Possible Threat to Security Industry Competition

Posted By Bob Ogle, Friday, August 10, 2012
The Pennsylvania Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (PBFAA) has asked ESA and other industry representatives for input on a controversial state bill that could have far-reaching implications for competition in the electronic security sector.

According to the bill’s sponsor, House Bill 2496 seeks to "phase out regulation of telecommunications utilities by the Public Utility Commission and permit the development of free market competition between traditionally regulated telecommunications carriers, cable companies, VoIP carriers, and wireless carriers.” The legislation would permit a telecom carrier to use "any available technology to provide lifeline service” without subjecting that technology to regulation.

Since there is no state licensing law or requirement for ESA members, this bill carries a great deal of potential impact for competition. ESA has asked the Alarm Industry Communication Committee (AICC) to place this legislation on its September agenda for discussion. The AICC is composed of members from ESA, the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), the Security Industry Association (SIA) and major alarm companies and manufacturers. AICC represents the alarm industry before Congress, the Federal Communications Commission and the courts.

Interested ESA members can send their comments to PBFAA Executive Director Dale Eller at DaleREller@itzsolutions.com, and to ESA Director of Government Relations John Chwat at john.chwat@chwatco.com.

The proposed deregulation raises red flags for industry professionals who remember the breakup of the Bell System in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1996, the "Baby Bells” were barred for five years from entering the alarm industry. Verizon, which evolved from the original Baby Bells, began offering a home automation / security feature last year, and is an example of a company that would benefit from deregulation.

Ben Dickens, an attorney for AICC and CSAA, recently told Security Systems News (SSN) that Verizon is becoming a player in the security industry and that deregulation could "pose a number of dangers to a level playing field” between telecoms such as Verizon and established companies in the alarm industry.

Dickens said Verizon still controls a large amount of infrastructure in Pennsylvania and other parts of the northeastern U.S., which the alarm industry relies upon to provide signals between customers and central stations. Deregulation could possibly open the door for discrimination in ways that would be hard to detect and hard to enforced, Dickens said, possibly creating an obstacle to fair competition.

A Verizon spokesperson told SSN that the deregulation is not aimed to gain an advantage in competition with security service providers, but instead to "level the playing field” with other entities such as cable companies in regards to voice services.

"A company like Verizon doesn’t have a dominant position in security services,” said spokesman Lee Gierczynski. "We’re a small competitor entering an already established industry.”

Click here to read the entire article on Security Systems News’ website.

Tags:  competition  legislation  telecoms 

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