Bill allows investment in wireless, broadband phone services

Hood Harris is president of AT&T Kentucky.
Hood Harris is president of AT&T Kentucky.

The way Kentuckians communicate is changing and so are our expectations about access to the technology we need to communicate.

For generations, the wires coming into our homes carried only one thing: our voices. Those wires carried our voices through huge switching facilities warehoused in our neighborhoods, towns and beyond to literally connect one person to another, pretty much the way Alexander Graham Bell drew it up 137 years ago.

Today, the Internet is changing how we communicate. The wires coming into our homes can now carry not only voices, but also emails, photos, video, our favorite sporting events and TV shows each night.

If you have any of this happening in your home, you've already made the transition. And you may not have even realized it, because your phone may still be hanging in the exact same place on your kitchen wall and the same wires may still be coming into your home, but the content that you are receiving through those wires could not be more different.

It's no longer the 19th century coming into your home over the old, voice-only phone network that was put in place under now-outdated laws; it's the 21st century coming into your home over modern networks.

While technology has changed dramatically for the better in just the past few years, our laws have not. Some of Kentucky's laws that regulate our phones were written before cable television, cell phones, the Internet, or email existed.

Because of these outdated laws, providers like AT&T must sink resources into outdated technology that could be invested in the modern broadband and wireless technology consumers want and need.

Every dollar invested in old technology is a dollar not being invested in speeding up the build- out of new technology across the commonwealth.

But that can change. The Kentucky General Assembly has the opportunity this year to take an important step toward modernizing our laws to more closely reflect these changes in the way we communicate.

Taking this step will encourage more investment in the broadband and wireless technologies Kentuckians want and need.

Despite what you may have heard, this Senate Bill 99 will not remove land lines from rural homes or businesses.

Instead, this legislation puts those customers in charge of deciding which communications services they want and need. If you are a rural customer, for example, you may choose to join the nearly 40 percent of Kentuckians who already have moved on from land-line home phones and gone only with a wireless phone, or you may choose a land-line phone that's provided over the Internet (known as Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP), or you may choose both a VoIP and a wireless service.

But you do not have to — you can keep your existing land-line phone if you like. Under this legislation, the choice is yours.

This new legislation doesn't end the land line. Instead, it takes a much-needed step toward modernizing our laws to promote investment in new technologies that will allow those wires coming into your home to do more than Mr. Bell could have ever imagined.