Whereas cable and wire was laid in every community across the US under the policy of equal protection and opportunity for all taxpayers having access to vital utilities. This was subsidized especially during FDR NEW DEAL-----and has worked for the most part for all Americans and was what kept pricing rates low and affordable.
Global Wall Street CLINTON/BUSH/OBAMA come along and say KILL THOSE UTILITY MONOPOLIES and what do we have today? A super-sized telecom monopoly having no control by government public agencies ----not even owned by US corporations----and price-fixing to ever-higher pricing rates----whatever the market will bear.
'In 1996, Congress responded by passing the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The law allowed long-distance telephone companies such as AT&T, as well as cable television and other start-up companies, to begin entering the local telephone business'.
'Meanwhile, for some consumers -- especially residential telephone users and people in rural areas whose service previously had been subsidized by business and urban customers -- deregulation was bringing higher, not lower, prices'.
Science, Tech, Math › Social Sciences
by U.S. Department of State
Updated March 27, 2017
Until the 1980s in the United States, the term "telephone company" was synonymous with American Telephone & Telegraph. AT&T controlled nearly all aspects of the telephone business. Its regional subsidiaries, known as "Baby Bells," were regulated monopolies, holding exclusive rights to operate in specific areas. The Federal Communications Commission regulated rates on long-distance calls between states, while state regulators had to approve rates for local and in-state long-distance calls.
Government regulation was justified on the theory that telephone companies, like electric utilities, were natural monopolies. Competition, which was assumed to require stringing multiple wires across the countryside, was seen as wasteful and inefficient. That thinking changed beginning around the 1970s, as sweeping technological developments promised rapid advances in telecommunications. Independent companies asserted that they could, indeed, compete with AT&T. But they said the telephone monopoly effectively shut them out by refusing to allow them to interconnect with its massive network.
Telecommunications deregulation came in two sweeping stages. In 1984, a court effectively ended AT&T's telephone monopoly, forcing the giant to spin off its regional subsidiaries. AT&T continued to hold a substantial share of the long-distance telephone business, but vigorous competitors such as MCI Communications and Sprint Communications won some of the business, showing in the process that competition could bring lower prices and improved service.
A decade later, pressure grew to break up the Baby Bells' monopoly over local telephone service. New technologies -- including cable television, cellular (or wireless) service, the Internet, and possibly others -- offered alternatives to local telephone companies. But economists said the enormous power of the regional monopolies inhibited the development of these alternatives.
In particular, they said, competitors would have no chance of surviving unless they could connect, at least temporarily, to the established companies' networks -- something the Baby Bells resisted in numerous ways.
In 1996, Congress responded by passing the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The law allowed long-distance telephone companies such as AT&T, as well as cable television and other start-up companies, to begin entering the local telephone business. It said the regional monopolies had to allow new competitors to link with their networks. To encourage the regional firms to welcome competition, the law said they could enter the long-distance business once the new competition was established in their domains.
At the end of the 1990s, it was still too early to assess the impact of the new law. There were some positive signs. Numerous smaller companies had begun offering local telephone service, especially in urban areas where they could reach large numbers of customers at low cost. The number of cellular telephone subscribers soared. Countless Internet service providers sprung up to link households to the Internet. But there also were developments that Congress had not anticipated or intended.
A great number of telephone companies merged, and the Baby Bells mounted numerous barriers to thwart competition. The regional firms, accordingly, were slow to expand into long-distance service. Meanwhile, for some consumers -- especially residential telephone users and people in rural areas whose service previously had been subsidized by business and urban customers -- deregulation was bringing higher, not lower, prices.
Take a look at the roll-call votes back in Clinton era to understand when WE THE PEOPLE knew both Democrat and Republican these pols were becoming those global Wall Street players----1996 is of course the same time they were breaking GLASS STEAGALL. There is that pesky PELOSI-----CARDIN-----HOYER----ERHLICH and we see more of what are being called LEFT SOCIAL PROGRESSIVES black, white, and brown MOVING FORWARD what is today a complete consolidation of all our methods of communications---TV, radio, phone, cable, now internet.
This telecommunications act was a killer because it broke the divisions between all those methods of communications just as Glass Steagall broke the divisions between banking and investment. This allowed a complete takeover of US vital infrastructure and MOVED FORWARD to ROBBER BARON takeover by global 1% OLD WORLD MERCHANTS OF VENICE.
So, this is what WE THE PEOPLE want to reverse and any REAL left social Democrat would have been shouting against all this for these few decades---instead, all those PRETEND FEELING THE BERN for example were pushing more and more global technology and the consolidation needed to do this.
Telecommunications Act of 1996
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Telecommunications Act of 1996
Other short titlesCommunications Decency Act of 1996
Long titleAn Act to promote competition and reduce regulation in order to secure lower prices and higher quality services for telecommunications consumers and encourage the rapid deployment of new telecommunications technologies.
NicknamesCommunications Act of 1995
Enacted bythe 104th United States Congress
EffectiveFebruary 8, 1996
Statutes at Large110 Stat. 56
Acts amendedCommunications Act of 1934
Titles amended47 U.S.C.: Telegraphy
U.S.C. sections amended
- 47 U.S.C. ch. 5, subch. VI § 609
- 47 U.S.C. ch. 5, subch. II § 251 et seq.
- 47 U.S.C. ch. 5, subch. I § 151 et seq.
- 47 U.S.C. ch. 5, subch. II § 271 et seq.
- Introduced in the Senate as S. 652 by Larry Pressler (R-SD) on March 30, 1995
- Committee consideration by Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation
- Passed the Senate on June 15, 1995 (81-18 Roll call vote 268, via Senate.gov)
- Passed the House on October 12, 1995 (passed without objection)
- Reported by the joint conference committee on January 31, 1996; agreed to by the House on February 1, 1996 (414-16 Roll call vote 025, via Clerk.House.gov) and by the Senate on February 1, 1996 (91-5 Roll call vote 8, via Senate.gov)
- Signed into law by President Bill Clinton on February 8, 1996
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the first significant overhaul of telecommunications law in more than sixty years, amending the Communications Act of 1934. The Act, signed by President Bill Clinton, represented a major change in American telecommunication law, since it was the first time that the Internet was included in broadcasting and spectrum allotment. One of the most controversial titles was Title 3 ("Cable Services"), which allowed for media cross-ownership. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the goal of the law was to "let anyone enter any communications business -- to let any communications business compete in any market against any other." The legislation's primary goal was deregulation of the converging broadcasting and telecommunications markets. However, the law's regulatory policies have been questioned, including the effects of dualistic re-regulation of the communications market
This is why we no longer believe a COMMON CAUSE is protecting WE THE PEOPLE----this was a MASTER PLAN created in the 1980 by global Wall Street neo-liberals working for the global 1% ----MOVING FORWARD started in force during Reagan so this telecommunication deregulation has REAL INTENDED CONSEQUENCES-----exactly the conditions of super-monopoly held by global 1% we have today.
Make no mistake-----REAL left social Democrats were shouting against all this deregulation back in the 1990s saying just what exists today would happen so everyone involved knew where this was going. Know what? It was that deregulation of telecoms that killed FAIRNESS DOCTRINE an FCC regulation requiring equal time for opposing political views so our national media and news was allowed to become far-right global Wall Street CLINTON/BUSH/OBAMA neo-liberal neo-con only. Silenced our REAL left social progressives and our REAL right conservative Republicans.
THIS IS WHEN WE THE PEOPLE SHOULD HAVE BEEN PROTESTING AND MARCHING EN MASSE. THEN OBAMA AND HIS FCC MADE ALL THIS 100% WORSE.
You are not holding power accountable if you report on goals and problems REACTIVELY AND NOT PROACTIVELY.
The Fallout From the
Telecommunications Act of 1996:
and Lessons Learned
A special report prepared by:
Common Cause Education Fund
1250 Connecticut Ave, NW Suite 600
Washington DC 20036
T 202.833.1200 F 202.659.3716
May 9, 2005
Holding Power Power Accountable
This study tells the story of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and its aftermath. In many ways,
the Telecom Act failed to serve the public and did not deliver on its promise of more competition,
more diversity, lower prices, more jobs and a booming economy.
Instead, the public got more media concentration, less diversity, and higher prices.
Over 10 years, the legislation was supposed to save consumers $550 billion, including $333 billion in
lower long-distance rates, $32 billion in lower local phone rates, and $78 billion in lower cable bills.
But cable rates have surged by about 50 percent, and local phone rates went up more than 20 percent.
Industries supporting the new legislation predicted it would add 1.5 million jobs and boost the economy by $2 trillion. By 2003, however, telecommunications’ companies’ market value had
fallen by about $2 trillion, and they had shed half a million jobs.
And study after study has documented that profit-driven media conglomerates are investing less in news
and information, and that local news in particular is failing to provide viewers with the information they
need to participate in their democracy
Why did this happen?
In some cases, industries agreed to the terms of the Act and then went to court to block them. By leaving regulatory discretion to the Federal Communications Commission, the Act
gave the FCC the power to issue rules that often sabotaged the intent of Congress. Control of the House passed from Democrats to Republicans, more sympathetic to corporate arguments for deregulation.
And while corporate special interests all had a seat at the table when this bill was being negotiated, the public did
not. Nor were average citizens even aware of this legislation’s great impact on how they got their entertainment and information, and whether it would foster or discourage diversity of viewpoints and a marketplace of ideas, crucial to democratic discourse.
Now, as Congress once again takes up major legislation to change telecommunications policy, and as it
revisits the Telecom Act, major industries have had nearly a decade to reinforce their relationships with lawmakers and the Administration through political donations and lobbying:
Since 1997, just eight of the country’s largest and most powerful media and telecommunications
companies, their corporate parents, and three of their trade groups, have spent more than $400 million
on political contributions and lobbying in Washington, according to a Common Cause analysis of federal records.
•Verizon Communications, SBC Communications Inc., AOL Time Warner, General Electric Co./NBC,
News Corp./Fox, Viacom Inc./CBS, Comcast Corp., Walt Disney Co./ABC, and the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, and the United States Telecom Association together gave nearly $45 million in federal political donations since 1997.
Of that total, $17.8 million went to Democrats and $26.9 million went to Republicans.
These eight companies and three trade associations also spent more than $358 million on lobbying
in Washington, since 1998, when lobbying expenditures were first required to be disclosed.
All this investment once again gives radio and television broadcasters, telephone companies, long-distance
providers, cable systems and Internet companies a huge advantage over average citizens.
While these corporations have different, and sometimes opposing views on individual provisions of a new
Telecom Act, their overriding desire is for less federal regulation. A new Telecommunications Act could
be written “in a matter of months, not years,” and be a “very short bill,” focused on an almost complete
deregulation of the telecommunications industry, said F. Duane Ackerman, chairman and CEO of BellSouth Corporation. “The basic issue before the Congress is simple,” Ackerman said.
“Can competition do a better job than traditional utility regulation?”
But before Congress listens to this call for less regulation, it is important to understand the changes Telecommunications Act of 1996 put into motion, and how those changes drastically redrew the media landscape, often to the detriment of the public.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996:
•Lifted the limit on how many radio stations one company could own. The cap had been set at 40
stations. It made possible the creation of radio giants like Clear Channel, with more than 1,200
and led to a substantial drop in the number of minority station owners, homogenization
of play lists, and less local news.
Lifted from 12 the number of local TV stations any one corporation could own, and expanded the limit
on audience reach. One company had been allowed to own stations that reached up to a quarter of
U.S. TV households. The Act raised that national cap to 35 percent. These changes spurred huge
media mergers and greatly increased media concentration. Together, just five companies – Viacom, the parent of CBS, Disney, owner of ABC, News Corp, NBC and AOL, owner of Time Warner, now control 75 percent of all prime-time viewing.
The Act deregulated cable rates. Between 1996 and 2003, those rates have skyrocketed, increasing by
nearly 50 percent.
The Act permitted the FCC to ease cable-broadcast cross-ownership rules. As cable systems increased
the number of channels, the broadcast networks aggressively expanded their ownership of cable networks
with the largest audiences. Ninety percent of the top 50 cable stations are owned by the same parent
companies that own the broadcast networks, challenging the notion that cable is any real source
The Act gave broadcasters, for free, valuable digital TV licenses that could have brought in up to
$70 billion to the federal treasury if they had been auctioned off. Broadcasters, who claimed they
deserved these free licenses because they serve the public, have largely ignored their public interest
obligations, failing to provide substantive local news and public affairs reporting and coverage of
congressional, local and state elections.
•The Act reduced broadcasters’ accountability to the public by extending the term of a broadcast license
from five to eight years, and made it more difficult for citizens to challenge those license renewals.
“Those who advocated the Telecommunications Act of 1996 promised more competition and diversity,
but the opposite happened,” said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree. “Citizens, excluded from
the process when the Act was negotiated in Congress, must have a seat at the table as Congress proposes
to revisit this law.”
The downplay of three global US Foreign Economic Zone cities well on their way to SMART CITY status having blackouts at the same time is UNREALISTIC. This is to what MOVING FORWARD today with deregulated energy and telecom as ONE GRID will lead---the circuitry that used to divide the US into regions and localities is being centralized to ONE GRID and we can bet it was an energy surge/malfunction that took down SMART CITIES EAST COAST AND WEST COAST.
ONE GRID CONTROLS NOT ONLY ENERGY BUT TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND CONGRESS AND OBAMA PASSED LAWS ALLOWING A PRESIDENTIAL EXECUTIVE AGENCY TO SHUT DOWN THE NATIONS' ENTIRE ENERGY/TELECOM GRID ALL AT ONCE.
While we are told this is all about fighting terrorism----WE THE PEOPLE must think about what US citizens having their sovereign rights taken away as MOVING FORWARD creates third world conditions will do with wanting a mass protest to create economic disruption. It makes all national movements impossible whether through travel or communications.
These incidences seem inconvenient but not worrisome now but what ONE GRID ONE GLOBAL CORPORATION controlling these vital infrastructure means is one flick takes all US cities and this consolidation of telecom and energy occurred with 1996 Telecom Act and electricity utility consolidation.
‘Totally surreal’: Blackouts hit LA, New York and San Francisco
Published time: 21 Apr, 2017 21:00Edited time: 22 Apr, 2017 18:10
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A Cable Car sits idle during a citywide power outage on April 21, 2017 in San Francisco © Justin Sullivan / AFP
Power outages hit Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, leaving commuters stranded and traffic backed up Friday. About 90,000 customers were affected in San Francisco.While the outages occurred around the same time there is no evidence they were connected or coordinated.
The first outage occurred at around 7:20am in New York when the power went down at 7th Avenue and 53rd Street subway station. That sent a shockwave of delays into the rest of the subway system.
A Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman told AP some passengers were stranded on trains. Some cars were dark except for phone light, and some riders say their commutes took two to three hours. Stations were packed.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called for a state investigation into the power outrage that ruined Friday's commute for many straphangers.
"The loss of power due to a Con Edison equipment failure during the morning rush hour caused a cascading effect and impacted the lives of thousands of commuters," Cuomo said in a statement. "Simply put, this was completely unacceptable.”
“The @MTA started the weekend early, I guess? Power outage at 53rd & everything is crazy,” one commuter wrote on Twitter.
The weekend is when the MTA does many of its major subway repairs and cuts or reduces subway service.
“It took me an hour and 20 mins to go one stop, give up, find my way out of this mob, then walk back home @MTA,” wrote Liz Baker on Twitter.
By 11:30am, MTA spokesman, Kevin Ortiz, confirmed the generators were running again at the station, and delays were cleared up by the afternoon.
The utility company, Con Edison, said one of its electric lines triggered the outage. Spokesman Allan Drury told AP it is not clear how long the repairs will take or how the failure occurred.
Later in the morning, power outages were reported in Los Angeles International Airport, as well as in several other areas around the city.
In San Francisco, the power outages were widespread.
The utility company, Pacific Gas & Electric, said a series of outages began at 9 am and within 30 minutes about 90,000 customers lost power.
PG&E spokeswoman Tamar Sarkissian said crews are assessing the situation but there's no immediate estimate for when power will be restored.
PGE officials are pointing to a substation fire as the primary cause of the outage, but have given no public estimates as to when power will be restored.
The blackout includes the Financial District, Presidio and stretch to the Marina/Cow Hollow area, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Traffic lights were out at scores of intersections, and cars backed up on downtown streets as drivers grew frustrated and honked at each other.
BART’s Montgomery Station was closed for more than two hours, with trains running through the station without stopping, before the agency reopened it.
All cable cars were down, as were several Muni bus lines that typically run on electricity from overhead wires,. Shuttles were put in place to provide service, according to the Municipal Transportation Agency.
The blackout took out traffic signals, affecting office buildings with residents and workers in the area calling it “totally surreal.”
Twenty-one schools in San Francisco were affected by the outage that affected utilities, including the internet, but they remained open and their schedules adjusted. Families were to be notified if there were changes at the schools.
The Philip Burton Federal Building and US Courthouse were closed down by the outage.
The San Francisco Fire Department said it has responded to more than 100 calls for service since a power outage struck a large area of the city. No injuries were reported.
The department tweeted that the calls included 20 elevators with people stuck inside.
The department adds there have been no delays in responding to calls.
Daisy Prado, a 23-year-old South Bay resident, told the San Francisco Chronicle she was sitting at her desk on the 14th floor of an office building in the Financial District when the power suddenly dropped out. She looked out the window and saw the buildings across the street go dark.
“They told us on an intercom to just stay calm,” Prado said. “People are hanging out the side of their buildings waiting to see what’s going to happen.”
Pacific Gas and Electric’s own outage map shows thousands affected and current estimates indicate that the outage is hitting up to 100,000 customers.
At a 2:00 pm press conference, city officials said 300 traffic signals went still down, with either flashing red or no signals, in the North East section of the San Francisco. The city employed 100 parking patrol officers to help with traffic control.
Drivers were asked to treat intersections as 'Always Stop.'
There had been no reports of traffic collisions.
San Francisco Police Chief, Bill Scott, said "Our major issue is traffic."
We think the answer lies below in stating this was a secretive drill by Federal government to test just what happens when systems are shut down. We know these kinds of drills will be needed as SMART CITY technology with energy and telecom is installed. At the same time we can bet our Federal government testing all this will sometimes see national media suggesting just what we see below----it was a cyber attack by a foreign entity.
Either way WE THE PEOPLE are already feeling the effects of DEREGULATED energy and telecom and it is not hard to envision these ONE GRID shutdowns being used to target individual businesses---individual communities-----just as the breakdown in TAX UNIFORMITY laws are seeing just the same---taxation being used selectively to create winners and losers and yes---GLOBAL WALL STREET CLINTON/BUSH/OBAMA would use the ONE GRID to do this just as they are using our TAX UNIFORMITY against WE THE PEOPLE.
'The cause of the outage has not yet been made clear, though given the current geo-political climate it is not out of the question to suggest a cyber attack could be to blame. It has also been suggested that the current outages could be the result of a secretive nuclear/EMP drill by the federal government'.
ONE WORLD ONE GOVERNANCE KEEPING THEIR THUMB ON ALL THOSE FOREIGN ECONOMIC ZONE COLONIES AS US CITIES DEEMED FOREIGN ECONOMIC ZONES MOVE FORWARD.
"Total Chaos" - Cyber Attack Feared As Multiple Cities Hit With Simultaneous Power Grid Failures
by Tyler Durden
Apr 21, 2017 9:50 PM
Authored by Mac Slavo via SHTFplan.com,
The U.S. power grid appears to have been hit with multiple power outages affecting San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles.
Officials report that business, traffic and day-to-day life has come to a standstill in San Francisco, reportedly the worst hit of the three major cities currently experiencing outages.
Power Cut Shuts Down Seattle
Power companies in all three regions have yet to elaborate on the cause, though a fire at a substation was the original reason given by San Francisco officials.
A series of subsequent power outages in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City left commuters stranded and traffic backed up on Friday morning. Although the outages occurred around the same time, there is as of yet no evidence that they were connected by anything more than coincidence.
The first outage occurred at around 7:20 a.m. in New York, when the power went down at the 7th Avenue and 53rd Street subway station, which sent a shockwave of significant delays out from the hub and into the rest of the subway system. By 11:30 a.m. the city’s MTA confirmed that generators were running again in the station, although the New York subways were set to run delayed into the afternoon.
Later in the morning, power outages were reported in Los Angeles International Airport, as well as in several other areas around the city.
Via : Inverse
The San Francisco Fire Department was responding to more than 100 calls for service in the Financial District and beyond, including 20 elevators with people stuck inside, but reported no immediate injuries. Everywhere, sirens blared as engines maneuvered along streets jammed with traffic.
Traffic lights were out at scores of intersections, and cars were backing up on downtown streets as drivers grew frustrated and honked at each other.
Via: SF Gate
The cause of the outage has not yet been made clear, though given the current geo-political climate it is not out of the question to suggest a cyber attack could be to blame. It has also been suggested that the current outages could be the result of a secretive nuclear/EMP drill by the federal government.
As we have previously reported, the entire national power grid has been mapped by adversaries of the United States and it is believed that sleep trojans or malware may exist within the computer systems that maintain the grid.
In a 2016 report it was noted that our entire way of life has been left vulnerable to saboteurs who could cause cascading blackouts across the United States for days or weeks at a time:
It isn’t just EMPs and natural disaster that poses a threat to the grid, but there is also the potential for attacks on individual power substations in the vast network of decentralized and largely unguarded power grid chain. A U.S. government study established that there would be “major, extended blackouts if more than three key substations were destroyed.”
Whether by criminals, looters, terrorists, gangs or pranksters, it would take very little to bring down the present system, and there is currently very little the system can do to protect against this wide open threat.
Whether the current outages are the result of a targeted infrastructure cyber attack or simply a coincidence, most Americans think the impossible can’t happen, as The Prepper’s Blueprint author Tess Pennington highlights, a grid-down scenario won’t just be a minor inconvenience if it goes on for more than a day or two:
Consider, for a moment, how drastically your life would change without the continuous flow of energy the grid delivers. While manageable during a short-term disaster, losing access to the following critical elements of our just-in-time society would wreak havoc on the system.
- Challenges or shut downs of business commerce
- Breakdown of our basic infrastructure: communications, mass transportation, supply chains
- Inability to access money via atm machines
- Payroll service interruptions
- Interruptions in public facilities – schools, workplaces may close, and public gatherings.
- Inability to have access to clean drinking water
Here we have the goal of ONE WORLD ONE GRID and it is not only our energy sources wind, solar, electricity all on one grid ----it is our telecommunications as well and look at what is MOVING FORWARD in Australia----sadly they are as captured by global Wall Street neo-liberals as the US-----the telecoms want in on the energy business. Well, let's face it all global multinational corporations like our energy corporations taking all our state home energy and all our telecom corporations are multinational-----and all those global corporations have boards filled with executives from other multinational corporations so basically already the global 1% own our US energy and telecoms and ONE GRID will see telecoms and energy merge into one global corporation controlling the ONE GRIDS of all Foreign Economic Zones. What is happening in US with ONE GRID is happening in all Foreign Economic Zones creating THE GREAT BIG THUMB of global corporate tribunal able to kill vital energy and telecom in any US city deemed Foreign Economic Zone with a flick of a button.
THIS MATTERS FOLKS-----FAR-RIGHT, MILITARISTIC, EXTREME WEALTH EXTREME POVERTY AUTHORITARIAN DICTATORSHIP COMES WITH ONE GRID KILLING ALL TELECOMMUNICATIONS AT A WHIM.
'Telecommunications companies want in on the action -- and they have money, consumers and huge market influence. Australian telecommunications company Telstra has announced plans to roll out home solar-plus-storage solutions to the millions of consumers it has around Australia. The corporation will offer entire-home connectivity packages including internet, phones and now solar, hopefully making the cost of solar panels in Australia more affordable'.
Will Telecom Companies Kill Utilities?
Darryn Van Hout argues that telecom firms such as Telstra, armed with solar-plus-storage, can win in the Australian energy market.
by Darryn Van Hout
February 15, 2016
The energy war is truly underway around the world, and there’s one word on everyone’s lips: storage, or more specifically, the solar-plus-storage revolution.
Solar-based generation has been available to the market for decades, but energy utilities have managed to keep their stronghold over the energy market. The downfall of solar power has been that it could not cater to nighttime electricity use -- relying on the larger electricity grid to keep it going.
Enter solar-plus-storage, the game-changer that solved this issue overnight. Granted, solar-plus-storage technology has been years in the making, but the shock it is causing to traditional electricity suppliers is drastic. The power dynamic between solar, fossil fuels, the government and consumers is highly complex -- and about to become even more so.
Telecommunications companies want in on the action -- and they have money, consumers and huge market influence. Australian telecommunications company Telstra has announced plans to roll out home solar-plus-storage solutions to the millions of consumers it has around Australia. The corporation will offer entire-home connectivity packages including internet, phones and now solar, hopefully making the cost of solar panels in Australia more affordable.
Telstra’s entry into the energy market in Australia signals a huge change to the industry and what could create enormous growth in renewable energy usage around the country. Telstra’s head of new business, Cynthia Whelan, says, “Telstra is looking at the opportunities to help customers monitor and manage many different aspects of the home, including energy.”
“We see energy as relevant to our ‘Connected Home’ strategy, where more and more machines are connected in what is called the internet of things,” she said.
Telstra has identified enormous potential in an existing consumer base, which will be looking to make the move to solar in the near future. Predictably, other large telcos will follow suit when the adoption of solar-plus-storage increases, and everyone wants a piece of the pie. While companies like Telstra and their competitors are experts within their industry, this doesn’t mean traditional utilities like AGL, Ergon Energy and Origin Energy won’t go down without a fight. They have, after all, been doing this for a while.
The question is whether a long history in the energy industry will be an advantage or a disadvantage. The status quo is hard to change. This is where Telstra is seeing its opportunity.
The utility’s weak spot
Consumer relationships matter. This may seem like a fairly obvious statement, but the history of energy companies and their consumer relationships does not reflect a strong focus on customer service. The traditional relationship between utility companies and their customers has long been a one-sided power dynamic, leaving utility companies with large amounts of control over energy prices.
In Australia, the reputation of energy retailers is considerably on the negative end, with just 22 percent of Australians holding a positive view of the energy industry, according to a survey conducted by IPSOS-Mori in the U.K.
The reasons for Australians having a poor relationship with their energy suppliers are said to include gas supply issues, the controversial coal seam gas movement, and high electricity prices. In what was once an oligopoly over the energy industry, utilities have had little need to foster their relationships with customers.
But as the solar revolution is expanding and customer service experts like Telstra enter as competitors, electricity retailers could be starting to regret relying on a historical imbalance of power. A 2014 Fairfax Business Intelligence survey measuring customer service satisfaction showed that energy utilities ranked worst in terms of customer service.
Advisory body Accenture and the Australian Financial Review have released recommendations to the energy sector suggesting exactly that. Their suggestions highlight consumer relationships as the central factor to the success of energy utilities in the changing and increasingly competitive energy market.
“Energy providers need to understand that customers are irrational and that many consumers have a preference to interact through non-traditional channels. Energy companies should look to making better use of digital, personalization and user-centered design,” the report states.
This is something telecommunications companies have been doing for years. The nature of the telecommunications industry demanded a high level of customer service from telcos, giving them the advantage of positive consumer relations in their entry into the solar industry.
The Accenture report describes the energy market as going through a “reinvention that will forge the way to future prosperity in an environment where consumers can and will choose to move completely off the grid and take more control of their energy choices.”
Mark Coughlin, head of utilities at PwC, also emphasized customer service as one of the central factors that will determine industry success. “The traditional utility model where the company controls the ‘electrons’ and the consumer has little choice is on its last legs; this model is struggling to meet customer needs.”
The empowerment of the consumer is aligning with the enormous growth of the solar storage industry, and there’s no doubt that demand for self-sufficiency in energy consumption is high.
Leading consumer care organization Australian Solar Quotes has seen record numbers of solar quote inquiries this year as Australian consumers seek solutions that will protect them from exposure to high electricity prices, driven by the Australian utilities. It’s now only a matter of time until the shift in the way that we buy, store and consume electricity will be available to all Australian households, including the large rental and commercial market.