This week Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed Senate Bill 107, which modernizes the Illinois Telecommuncations Act. According to a press release,
Investment in broadband and wireless technology is a key to creating better jobs and providing unique educational opportunities across Illinois,” said Governor Quinn. “I am proud to sign this law to encourage private investment in these critical technologies, which will put more people to work and protect consumers.
Also, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland signed Senate Bill 162, which updates Ohio’s seriously outmoded telephone regulations. According to a statement by the governor,
This bill is common sense regulatory reform. It modernizes Ohio’s telecommunications laws, even removing more than 50 references to the ‘telegraph’ in the Ohio Revised Code. By reducing archaic red tape, we are making the state more competitive and sending a clear message to telecommunication businesses that we welcome your investments in Ohio.
Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue signed House Bill 168 on June 4.
Telecom regulatory reform is urgently needed to protect and promote investment, innovation and consumer choice. George Gilder and I have authored several reports (see this, this, this and this) documenting the problem and making several recommendations. The Illinois, Ohio and Georgia legislation include many of the ideas which are needed to spur critical private sector investment in broadband infrastructure which will lead to job creation and retention.
A report by Connected Nation projects a reasonably-achievable 7 percent increase in broadband adoption would produce over 105,000 jobs in Illinois, 96,000 jobs in Ohio and 71,000 jobs in Georgia annually.. These jobs would not only in be communications equipment and services, but also in manufacturing and service industries (especially finance, education and health care).
Other states should take heed: If legacy telephone regulation is not reformed and the possibility that other market participants could face similar regulation is not eliminated, these estimated benefits could be at risk. Continued regulation jeopardizes competition which leads to benefits and savings for consumers by creating artificial competitive advantages and disadvantages for providers.
Regulation is no longer necessary to protect telephone customers. Most now all have a choice of providers.
All providers of voice services should be subject to minimum regulation which does not discriminate on the basis of technology or history. By removing the statewide cobwebs of regulation that afflict telecom and could ensnare its competitors, states can turn themselves into magnets for private investment needed to open new technological opportunities and economic efficiencies that promise enormous dividends.
The alternative is to accept the unnecessary risk of diverting investment – and jobs — to another state such as Illinois, Ohio or Georgia that has updated their telecom statutes.