The General Assembly's decision last session to refrain from updating Kentucky's communications laws was a step in the wrong direction for Kentucky's economy.
Now the ball is back in legislators' hands, and the state's future in an age of innovation is on the line.
Like it or not, Kentucky is competing in a global, innovation-driven economy. The jobs our children and grandchildren will hold rely largely on the ability to understand and apply advanced technologies and embrace opportunities for innovation.
That is why it is critical that we continually update outdated laws and regulations to further encourage companies to invest in the technologies and services that will push the innovation envelop. The status quo will not lead to progress.
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Nowhere is this more important than in the communications marketplace. According to the Federal Communications Commission's most recent figures, Kentucky has some 1.4 million traditional telephone lines. If you add VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) lines, the figure goes to 1.8 million. But both pale in comparison to the 3.8 million wireless subscribers.
The future is mobile, and not just in terms of talking on phones. Increasingly, people must have access to mobile devices and effective wireless networks as a prerequisite to participating fully in the social and economic marketplace. And we are not just talking speed, convenience or texting your friends.
Companies, governments and schools are all using mobile wireless platforms to conduct and deliver important information, business, products and services. With respect to some of the emerging mobile health applications, some of these capabilities could be lifesaving for Kentuckians.
Is there any question about the technology that residents and businesses prefer as they connect with one another and the world? That's not just the wave of the future; it's now and, consequently, where capital dollars need to be invested today. But some of our laws are remarkably unhelpful in this regard.
Many of our laws were conceived for an economy now vanished into the mists of history. But still they linger, hindering investments in the new technologies that drive innovation and economic opportunity.
To compete in this global economy, and especially in our region, we need to keep pace and modernize our laws and related policies to facilitate the capital investment, jobs and progress that can follow.
We cannot afford to fall behind. We have to be as good, if not better, than our neighbors. Jobs are created in states that use a light regulatory touch, not those that refuse to embrace the reality of today.
At the Kentucky Science and Technology Corp., we are committed to helping create an innovation-driven entrepreneurial economy that makes Kentucky a leader in the development of new knowledge and its applications to people, companies and organizations.
The opponents of change can be loud, but that does not necessarily make them right. Some have said that without strict government regulation, traditional telephone companies will intentionally allow service to degrade or even disconnect some of our more rural neighbors. But it's not in a company's interest to knowingly make decisions likely to drive customers to competitors. Rather, companies seek to anticipate customer needs and respond accordingly.
Senate Bill 88 is simply a long-overdue update to existing statutes that will clear the way for more investment in the kinds of technologies and networks that Kentucky needs and people are using. This year the Kentucky General Assembly has another chance to take a forward-looking stand for innovation, jobs and investments.
Feb. 15 Herald-Leader article, "Senate passes phone legislation; opponents in House concerned about effect in rural areas"