Kentucky voices

Ky. Voices: Updating telecom rules would benefit customers, Kentucky

February 8, 2013 

Mary Pat Regan is president of AT&T Kentucky.

The way we communicate is constantly changing. Never has this been more evident than with the explosive growth of broadband demand in Kentucky driven by next generation technologies.

From distance learning to remote health monitoring to connecting with our loved ones via social media, technology has changed the way we work, live and play. Ensuring Kentuckians are connected anywhere anytime with the latest and greatest technologies requires constant investment and innovation. Kentucky's antiquated monopoly-era rules do not fit today's new technology-driven society.

There is a consensus that Kentucky needs to be a more connected state. Legislators have spoken with consumer groups, business and community leaders and elected officials across Kentucky on how to achieve this goal.

The New Economy Communications Act introduced this week reflects that feedback and addresses concerns regarding consumer protections and impacts on rural areas.

This bill ensures providers have the flexibility to serve customers with new and better technologies, the same technologies that will drive future jobs. Passage will align Kentucky with neighboring states, enabling capital investment to flow into Kentucky.

Will modernizing Kentucky's telecom rules lead to less or no telephone service? Absolutely not.

This bill does not take away reliable phone service in Kentucky, and Lifeline services available to low-income consumers are not impacted.

Those with little vision have argued that the telecommunications industry wants to stop serving customers. That makes no sense. No one's phone is going to be taken away and rural areas are not going to lose service. It is in our best interest to serve as many customers as possible.

With Kentuckians demanding more and better advanced technologies, providers need the flexibility to provide services through a newer, faster and more advanced infrastructure that will support not only these next generation technologies but deliver telephone service too. It is important to remember that every dollar we are required to spend on old infrastructure is a dollar we cannot spend on new wireless and broadband infrastructure.

While this bill protects consumers, it is competition that will have the greatest impact on service reliability and affordability. Simply put, consumers win if there is robust competition for their business. This bill encourages even greater competition than we have today. Currently, more than 100 companies offer communications services in Kentucky.

More than one-third of households are wireless-only, and another third use competitive options like cable or other communication services. Even those customers with basic dial tone want more and they're scouring the marketplace to find services to meet their needs. This bill encourages additional investment and innovation, resulting in greater competition through newer and faster technologies that customers demand.

Building out new communications infrastructure will offer rural areas more and better access to the Internet and the opportunities and conveniences that brings. Bringing faster speeds and better coverage to rural areas is one of the reasons this legislation is needed. This bill positions Kentucky for the future while ensuring no one is left behind.

Many other states across the country have already taken this step, positioning themselves for jobs and investment. And no one has lost their phone. service. In those states, the same worn, tired scare tactics were used by the same opponents, and their predictions have not come true. The reality is that providers want to invest in new infrastructure, expanding access to broadband and creating jobs rather than simply maintaining the status quo that does not move Kentucky forward with the rest of the country.

Capital investment flows to where it is treated best. Why wouldn't Kentucky want to be in the best position possible to attract much needed investment and jobs?

Kentucky needs to move forward and do it quickly, and the General Assembly has the opportunity to do that this year.

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