By Mary Pat Regan
President of AT&T Kentucky
Voters lose when principled leadership takes a backseat to political gamesmanship in Kentucky’s legislature.
Citizens want leaders who are unafraid to make decisions on serious issues that make the commonwealth a better place to live and work.
Unfortunately, as SB 88 shows, dodging is far too easy. Passed by the Senate more than two weeks ago with bipartisan support, the New Economy Communications Act remains stalled in the House, with no sign it will be allowed to come up for a vote.
The stakes for Kentuckians could not be higher. SB 88 will stimulate greater investment in the newest communication technologies while erasing obsolete regulations that outlived their usefulness long ago.
Advanced broadband and wireless services are the keys to economic growth. These technologies drive innovation, create jobs and open the door for new educational opportunities. There is broad consensus among consumer groups, business and community leaders and elected officials that Kentucky needs to be a more connected state in order to succeed in a digital, global economy.
This is why the Senate crafted a bill to allow communications companies the flexibility to serve consumers with the newest and best technologies.
Opponents have issued all manner of synthetic hysteria and dire predictions designed to frighten legislators. They claim that rural or elderly customers would lose their phone service and quality will suffer.
In other states that have updated their laws, no customer has lost service. And the other gloomy predictions have also failed to come true.
Kentucky needs SB 88 because remaining rotary-dial regulations are forcing us, in order to maintain 1934-era technology that has been dying for years, to siphon off dollars we could be investing in new technologies that consumers across the Commonwealth want and need.
AT&T has a long history of working to help Kentucky and her people prosper. More than 7,000 active and retired employees call the Commonwealth “home.” From 2008 through 2011, AT&T and its employees contributed more than $5.6 million through corporate, employee and AT&T Foundation giving programs in Kentucky. We annually pay nearly $200 million in taxes in Kentucky and purchase nearly $100 million in goods and services from suppliers based here. In addition, over the past three years, we have invested more than $650 million in our wireline and wireless networks.
The states that have updated their laws are seeking additional investment in new technologies in the future. The Senate is on record that they want some of that capital to come here. Does the House agree? Without a vote on SB 88, no one knows.
This bill costs no taxpayer dollars, yet can benefit all taxpayers with increased investment in new technology. It can improve the quality of life for Kentuckians, stimulate economic development and create jobs.
Apparently, some House leaders are distrustful of the exponential growth in advanced broadband technologies and wish to cling to monopoly-era rules that are simply no longer relevant. But we also believe that, just as in the Senate, a great many House members want to embrace the future and position the Commonwealth for success. They want to see these technologies in the rural parts of the commonwealth as well.
Citizens have a right to expect their representatives to take a stand on issues that will affect their economic future. Preventing those elected representatives from voting on SB 88 disenfranchises the public and is a disservice to Kentucky.