Assembly Panel Clears Kennedy, Benson & Mukherji Bill Protecting State, Local Agencies from Unwarranted Disruption of Utility Service
Bill Sponsored in Response to Incident at Union County Office
Whose Internet Service Was Mistakenly Disconnected
(TRENTON) – Requiring a 5-day utility shut-off notice to state and local agencies, a bill sponsored by Assemblymen Jim Kennedy Daniel Benson and Raj Mukherji was approved by the Assembly Telecommunications Committee Thursday.
The bill (A-1725) would require certain telecommunications, cable television, and public utility service providers to notify a board of education, local government unit, or State agency of any pending service discontinuance due to an unpaid bill. Notification would be received in writing, by certified or registered mail, at least five business days prior to the discontinuance.
An example of a related incident occurred last year. The internet service to the Union County Public Safety Complex was wrongfully discontinued by their provider. Their monthly payment was mistakenly credited to another account. The public safety complex dispatches emergency calls from municipalities within the county. They were unable to reach first responders and receive real-time updates from emergency personnel during the time the service was disconnected.
“Thankfully a backup system was put in place at the center, but this raises some concern. If a utility shuts off service to a public safety complex without warning, this could become problematic,” said Kennedy (D- Middlesex, Somerset, Union). “Although this incident was a common computing error, advanced notification would have given an agency time to call and correct it before disconnection. We do not want what occurred in Union County to happen anywhere else in New Jersey.”
“An unexpected disconnection of utilities for any state or local government entity, especially for those who maintain our public safety, disrupts the services residents rely on daily,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “Advance notice gives agencies every opportunity to make sure their utility service and their services are not interrupted.”
“When it comes to ensuring public safety, utility companies must think twice before issuing a disconnection order for government or emergency services,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “A small misunderstanding, which could be quickly corrected, could impede the duties of emergency personnel.”
The bill will now go to Assembly Speaker for approval.