By Tom Still
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
May 7, 2011
A bill that would modernize Wisconsin’s telecommunications laws and open the door for investment in improved broadband and wireless networks was the topic of public hearings last week before Assembly and Senate committees. While some details remain to be worked out, lawmakers appear on their way to embracing a plan that would spur economic growth – particularly in rural areas where e-commerce, telemedicine and distance learning are more concepts than reality.
Traditional phone companies are regulated under rules that stem from an era when telecommunications was defined as two-way, voice-grade, analog wireline service. In short, telecom was a plain black telephone hanging on the wall.
Today, telecom is defined broadly to reflect a tidal wave of change in the age of digital computing and the Internet. The early 21st century meaning of telecom is the transmission and distribution of multiple forms of data – voice, text, video, images, music and more – through a variety of means.
Rethinking regulatory barriers tied to the landline era is part of Wisconsin’s effort to ensure that its telecom systems are world-class and that all regions of Wisconsin, from its major cities to its rural areas, have a chance to compete in the global marketplace.
If the reform package passes, Wisconsin could see job growth across a number of business sectors due to opportunities created by better telecom connections.
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