14 Apr Broadband freedom mandatory for growth
As a member of the Wisconsin State Senate, my top priority has been growing the state’s lagging economy. As co-chair of the Senate Select Committee on Job Creation, many pro-job initiatives authored and vetted by our committee have passed the legislature on a bi-partisan basis. These bills have improved the state’s energy readiness, created a more reasonable regulatory environment and built a foundation for a more vibrant venture capital market.
This foundation is very important. From it, Wisconsin can position itself to be on a competitive footing as we compete for higher paying jobs around the world.
An important piece of the puzzle is missing, however. I have authored 2003 Senate Bill 302 (SB 302), which would change the way the state views broadband services. My bill would change the existing regulatory structure for broadband services and regulate it much like the current model used for cell phones. There are few areas of the state that have less than two cell phone providers in each area. By having more options to choose from, the customer wins.
Voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) is an emerging broadband application that the state should be encouraging. The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has not regulated VOIP. My belief is that the Wisconsin should encourage deployment and follow the FCC’s lead by deregulating VOIP. This application will lead the way for broadband adoption, followed closely by video services.
Currently, companies that offer high-speed Internet services are expending millions of dollars in infrastructure needs in hopes of reaching more American families and businesses. However, with the current overarching regulatory system that the state imposes on these broadband companies, this much-needed investment in Wisconsin could be missed.
Deregulating broadband will be in the customer’s best interest. Competition will drive down prices and force companies to offer innovative applications and services to capture market share. Furthermore, the goal of SB 302 is to create more options within each regional area so that a person has a minimum of two choices for broadband services.
It is now common practice for businesses to look closely at what infrastructure is available to them in the area. Though the tax climate and geographic proximity play a role in where businesses start or relocate, the next generation is looking at broadband access as a means to stay competitive. If Wisconsin fails to act on creating more regulatory certainty for broadband, jobs could be lost to more sympathetic states.
With the growing age of technology, broadband access to some of the most rural segments of the state of Wisconsin can become a reality. By providing broadband companies with the ability to reach out to under and unserved areas of the state of Wisconsin, it will not be long before the state becomes a model for other states to follow.
The amount of broadband users in America is growing everyday; however, it lags in comparison to some of our competition globally. Citizens in North Korea, Japan, and even Canada have faster broadband access at a lower cost. If Wisconsin wants to play a significant role in the global economy, we must act now to change how our state regulates broadband services.
Ted Kanavas, elected to the state Senate in 2001, represents the 33rd Senate District in the Wisconsin Legislature. Senator Kanavas serves as Co-Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Job Creation and as a member of the state’s Joint Finance Committee. The 33rd Senate District is made up of parts of Waukesha and Washington Counties. This commentary is part of WTN’s Vision Series.