Will telecom bill haunt rural Kansas?

It was surprising that only one Kansas House member voted against a bill that would reduce required funding of the Kansas Universal Service Fund, which helps ensure affordable phone service throughout the state. Rep. Larry Hibbard, R-Toronto, expressed concern that it could result in higher phone rates for some rural areas. “This bill may come back to haunt rural Kansas,” he said. The bill is being pushed by AT&T and other telecommunications companies, and lawmakers seem eager to help. Rep. Joe Seiwert, R-Pretty Prairie, chairman of the House Utilities and Telecommunications Committee, described the measure as “an industry bill that they all worked very hard” to put together, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. A Republican bill brief said the bill “puts legislators in an easier position of not having to ‘choose between friends’” – the friends being the phone companies.