All those new ways to get telephone service, the Internet and even television would undergo less regulation under a bill moving through the legislature. Supporters insist less regulation means more competition and better service to consumers. Not everyone buys that argument.

Rep. Jake Zimmerman (D-Olivette) was on the losing end of a 130-to-22 House vote on HCS HB 1779 that loosens telecommunications regulation, such as freeing companies from price caps if 55% of its exchanges in Missouri compete with other companies.

"The idea that if you’re competitive in half of the state, therefore we’re going to say you are competitive everywhere and are going to let you raise prices everywhere," says Zimmerman, "I got to tell you, I think that’s a little screwy."

Not so says sponsor Ed Emery (R-Lamar). Emery says differing philosophies are at play here.

"The trade off that you are looking at," says Emery, "Is whether I trust the marketplace more, competition, or whether I trust regulators more"

Emery says his bill will allow the marketplace to activate its power on behalf of the consumer.  Zimmerman isn’t convinced that competition will work its magic.  He worries that telephone prices will rise under the bill, especially in rural parts of the state. Emery says that if they do it will be because of the marketplace. Emery says the real benefit of the bill, though, will be in a wide range of choices and services available to consumers throughout Missouri, a range that he insists the current state regulatory structure suppresses. 

Download/listen Brent Martin reports (1:30 MP3)