LANSING (AP) – Michigan residents could buy one basic calling plan with rates approved by state regulators while phone companies could set prices for all other plans and services under a bill headed for Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s desk.

The Legislature voted overwhelming Thursday to approve a rewrite of the telecommunications law that would remove much of the state’s oversight of phone rates. Gov. Jennifer Granholm is expected to sign the legislation.

The bill would limit the Michigan Public Service Commission’s rate-setting authority to a basic plan that provides 100 outgoing calls a month, 12,000 outgoing minutes per month and unlimited incoming calls. All business plans and other residential plans would be unregulated, including extra services such as caller ID and call waiting.

Legislators said changing the law will spur more competition and give consumers more choices, but critics said it won’t do enough to protect customers against higher prices.

“Elected officials hung up on Michigan consumers,” said Rick Gamber of the Michigan Consumer Federation, who criticized lawmakers for giving residents just one basic regulated plan.

He said many customers make more than 100 calls per month, which means they’re likely to want a different plan.

“You can go with a deregulated plan based on the market,” he said. “But in many areas of the state, there is no market. There’s one provider. That’s it.”

But Rep. Mike Nofs, a Battle Creek Republican, said his bill is good for both consumers and business.

“The bill recognizes the changing nature of the telecommunications industry and helps set the stage for increased competition and investment in Michigan while maintaining important protections for consumers,” Nofs said in a statement.

The current law, which expires at year’s end, requires companies to offer regulated rates in monthly plans of 50 calls, 150 calls, 400 calls and an unlimited number of calls. The bill would require one 100-call plan, and its price could be changed just once a year. Prices for unregulated plans and services could go up more than once a year.


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