[argus leader] South Dakota moved closer this week to becoming the first state to prohibit a controversial issue facing the telecommunications industry.
In question is a practice known as access stimulation, often referred to as "traffic pumping." While the debate is conducted in the technical language of telecommunications law, at stake is millions of dollars made by a few rural phone companies working with out-of-state firms to offer free conference calls and pornographic chats.
The kicker is that telecommunications giants - such as Qwest, Verizon and AT&T - are forced to pick up the bill.
Following spirited testimony Wednesday before the State Affairs committee, the panel voted to recommend legislation favoring the national companies.
"This is a complicated issue," said Dusty Johnson, commissioner of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, who did not take a position on the legislation, said in an interview.
"The whole notion of access charges is very foreign to people," he said. "Consumers don't pay access charges - it is what one telephone company charges another telephone company to use its network. It is behind the scenes for a lot of consumers."
Big phone companies try to end rural windfall