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No blocking consumer choice

Published (3/11/2010)
By Nick Busse
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Renters would be guaranteed the right to purchase telephone, cable or Internet services from a provider of their own choosing, under a bill that won division approval March 5.

HF3097 would prevent landlords from forbidding or discriminating against tenants for choosing one telecommunications provider over another. Sponsored by Rep. Al Juhnke (DFL-Willmar), it was approved by the House Telecommunications Regulation and Infrastructure Division.

Juhnke said landlords sometimes try to strike deals with telecommunications companies and give renters exclusive rates or charge higher rent for tenants that opt for a different provider.

“If you want a different cable provider or a different phone provider … you certainly should be allowed to do that and not be fenced out by an apartment owner who maybe cut a side deal to make some money with a single provider,” Juhnke said.

Cathy Clucas, representing the Minnesota Telecom Alliance, said a statute that offered similar protections for renters expired in 2004. She said the bill’s language is crafted to be identical to the old statute, except that it would offer protections to cable and Internet subscribers as well as telephone users. The old law applied only to phone customers.

The bill now goes to the House Commerce and Labor Committee. A companion, SF2616, sponsored by Sen. Kathy Sheran (DFL-Mankato), awaits action by the full Senate.

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