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In 2006, the Kentucky Legislature took a major step towards building Kentucky’s economy by overwhelmingly passing the Emerging Technology and Consumer Choice Act. Lawmakers recognized that outdated, monopoly-era regulations were hampering competition and stifling investment in advanced technologies, and took direct action to reduce them.
This removed rules on the vast majority of landline offerings by traditional telecom companies. Since then, competition for telecommunications services has soared, and wireless and broadband demand has surged. Cable television and other companies now offer “phone service,” while traditional phone companies are offering competitive “video service.”
However, over the past six years, the telecom industry has shifted in other ways. Wireless communications technologies have totally revolutionized the marketplace and changed the way we communicate.
Almost 85 percent of Kentucky households now have a cell phone as Kentucky wireless subscribership now outpaces landline 2:1. Nearly one third of all Kentucky households have wireless-only service, while the number of smartphones and tablets being used grows daily, putting demands on the wireless and broadband networks.
In addition, there are many new communications providers entering the market, offering deals and choices for consumers. Even AARP offers phone service and now has an app for iPhones and iPads, demonstrating that consumers of all ages are communicating these days and keeping up with changing technology.
Consumers are demanding services and products that reflect the way they live and work; however, without regulatory reform in the telecommunications arena, Kentucky will have rotary-dial laws in an iPhone world.
Proposed legislation before the Kentucky state Senate takes the next logical step to modernizing outdated regulatory rules, encouraging investment and innovation from all providers. Unlike what some opponents may suggest, this bill is not about abandonment or discontinuing service.
If you have phone service today, you will have phone service tomorrow. These proposed reforms are about building a better business environment in Kentucky for telecom infrastructure investment in new technologies such as wireless broadband. The legislation leaves no Kentuckian without the ability to obtain voice service.
Lastly, telecom modernization is intended to level the telecommunications playing field in the highly competitive marketplace.
It is time for new regulatory reform measures to recognize the way the telecommunications environment has changed. We need updated rules that help increase investment in the newer technologies that households and businesses are demanding while better enabling companies to provide more wireless and broadband to Kentuckians.
Despite the economic challenges of the last few years, Kentucky’s future is bright. Modernizing our laws and building the telecom infrastructure upon which the jobs of the future depend is a step towards leaving a better Kentucky for our children and grandchildren.
That is an achievable goal we can all share as we work together in 2012.
Mary Pat Regan is the president of AT&T Kentucky.