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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
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.”
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