For more than 30 years, the Congress of California Seniors has been a strong voice for seniors and consumers in California. As part of our outreach, we provide information to low-income and underserved consumers about ways to lower costs and receive discounts for their energy and telecommunications needs. We have also sponsored bills and worked to advance or oppose legislation in the State legislature that impacts consumers and given testimony advocating for seniors before the California Public Utilities Commission.
We recently launched an effort to combat the growing problem of elder abuse. We conducted a massive outreach program to some 320,000 seniors and family members to help them understand the signs of abuse and the need to stay in touch. It is in this effort that we first recognized the value of innovative Internet-based communications technologies.
Although we understood the importance of the Internet in helping people get help from health providers and to stay in touch with family, we’ve come to realize how the advanced capabilities of new communications technologies like Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services take this connectivity to a whole new level. We see the promise of IP services and applications to end the isolation of elders which is the breeding ground for most abuse. Those with limited mobility can use an inexpensive technology to stay in virtual contact with friends, family, neighbors and healthcare workers. They can see specialists who might otherwise be unreachable. Key caregivers and loved ones can see and hear elders in real time and “face to face” providing the visual feedback that can help spot health issues or signs of abuse.
The potential of these services and yet-to-be-developed technologies to enhance the lives of California’s frail and vulnerable seniors is exciting. We believe we must help the technology grow and work to extend broadband access to more consumers across our state. The current government oversight recognizes that Internet service is global, not constrained by state borders. It is regulated at the national level to allow consistent standards across the country. This has allowed these new technologies, many which are free, to benefit seniors. .
That is why we strongly support Senator Alex Padilla’s SB 1161, which is currently being considered in Sacramento.
Senator Padilla’s thoughtful and carefully written SB 1161 recognizes the key role VoIP and other Internet services will play in the lives of Californians. It protects the successful policy we currently have and makes sure that important consumer protections for telecommunications users are not eroded. And it supports California’s thriving Technology industry that is meeting the needs and desires of consumers for innovative products and services.
Internet technology and services are proving to be the lifeline that frail and isolated seniors need. The Congress of California Seniors supports SB 1161 because we believe it provides the right balance for consumer protection and innovation.
Eds' Note: Hank Lacayo of Newbury Park, Ventura County, leads the Congress of California Seniors and is actively engaged in numerous community service organizations.