Tag Archives: telecom modernization

Governor Walker: Signs telecommunication modernization bill into law

Cullen Werwie
May 24, 2011

Governor Scott Walker signed SS SB13 into law today which is aimed at modernizing Wisconsin’s telecommunications infrastructure.

“This law will allow the telecommunications industry to better serve Wisconsin’s consumers and it will spur economic growth and job creation,” Governor Scott Walker said. “I thank Senator Rich Zipperer and Representative Mark Honadel for their leadership on this bipartisan piece of legislation.”

SS SB13 expands consumer access to modernized telecommunications services including internet and broadband, fosters competition for services, streamlines Wisconsin’s outdated regulatory environment by recognizing technological advancement in the industry, and expands economic opportunities for jobs in advancing telecommunication fields.

Telecom deregulation bill passed by the state Senate

By Mary Spicuzza
WI State Journal
May 11, 2011

A bill to deregulate Wisconsin’s telecommunications industry passed the state Senate on Wednesday.

Argument over the legislation broke out largely along party lines, with Republicans saying it would bring better Internet access and more competition among businesses and Democrats arguing it would lead to higher rates and worse service.

“This legislation ensures that we are not playing favorites among technologies,” said state Sen. Rich Zipperer, R-Pewaukee.

Zipperer, the bill’s main Senate sponsor, said corporate competition would help the state advance technology and move on from the “monopoly era” when one company had control of the industry. He and other Republicans said consumers would be better served if the industry is deregulated.

But state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, and some other Democrats argued the measure would leave customers vulnerable to rate increases and worse phone and Internet service.

“The service quality will become poorer and poor and the price will be higher and higher,” she said.

Vinehout also argued that rural areas will be particularly hard hit by the measure, and warned GOP lawmakers were pitting urban against rural.

“We’re picking winners and losers,” she said.

Democrats offered numerous amendments to the bill to include some consumer protections, but they were rejected by the GOP.

Zipperer and bill supporters argue that the legislation is long overdue, saying it would be the first changes to the state’s telecommunications rules in about 20 years.

During the floor debate, the Republican senator praised former state Sen. Jeff Plale, who had pushed for deregulation during the last session.

But state Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, said Plale’s telecommunications legislation is part of why he was able to defeat the Democratic incumbent from South Milwaukee in the primary election. Larson sai dhte bill was “put together in secrety behind closed doors” and “cut off regular folks.”

Vinehout agreed and said the bill, which is backed by powerhouses like AT&T Wisconsin, was effectively drafted by industry lobbyists.

Under the bill, the Public Service Commission could no longer determine telecommunication rates, audit providers or investigate complaints from consumers about their service.

The commission also would be prohibited from regulating additional services like high-speed Internet and broadband.

The measure passed 25-8 on a bipartisan vote. It now heads to the state Assembly.

Lawmakers find time to tackle economic growth

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.

To read the entire article, click here.

Steve Kohlmann: State must update telecom law

By Steve Kohlmann
April 5,2011

Dear Editor: In today’s tough economy, Wisconsin needs to do everything it can to attract new jobs and investment to our state. One long-overdue policy change we can make to spur economic growth and create jobs is to modernize Wisconsin’s telecommunications law. With Wisconsin facing a $3.6 billion budget deficit, this is a simple update that won’t cost taxpayers a dime.

Outdated regulations on landlines prevent more investment in new technologies that are fueling economic growth in other states. Current law requires providers to invest resources in old, copper line technologies that consumers and businesses no longer desire — instead of investing those resources in the technologies of the future: wireless and broadband.

Ohio and Illinois both modernized their telecom laws last June, and since then have seen a combined $1 billion in announced investment and nearly 29,000 estimated jobs. Wisconsin could reap similar benefits.

Advancing a new telecommunications law will help Wisconsin become a leader in the Midwest for technology jobs and help keep and expand the valuable manufacturing jobs Wisconsin is known for.

The longer it takes Wisconsin to update its telecom laws, the farther we fall behind. That’s why the Independent Business Association of Wisconsin has joined a coalition of over 100 economic development, business, community and education leaders in urging lawmakers to update Wisconsin’s telecom laws as soon as possible.

If Wisconsin is to be open for business we’re going to have to walk the walk.

Steve Kohlmann

President, Independent Business Association of Wisconsin


Telecom Modernization: What it Means for Consumer Choice

By George Klaetsch
March 31,2011

For generations, Wisconsin has been known as a leader in reforms. It is only natural then, that the state would want to continue to lead when it comes to modernizing our current telecommunication regulations.  However, this is not the reality.  Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa and Ohio have all recently updated their telecommunication regulations, while Wisconsin has failed to act. 

The freedom for companies to invest in new technologies will create a new competitive marketplace. In 1993, Congress auctioned off additional radio spectrums believing that new competitors would materialize. This spectrum is now used by wireless phones, and has resulted in the cost per minute of wireless phone calls dropping from 47 cents in 1994 to 6 cents in 2007. Without the new spectrum, companies would have been paralyzed and unable to invest in the wireless network we have today. Just three years later, in 1996, Congress eliminated cable rate regulation although cable operators retained 91 percent of all subscribers. Congress did this because new competitors from satellite television were becoming more popular. Since the deregulation of the cable industry, companies have invested $145 billion to build two-way interactive networks with fiber-optic technologies. That investment paved the way for more channels and choices than ever before.

Today, landline providers face increased competition from Voice over Internet Protocol providers (VoIP), cable operators and from wireless providers. However unlike VoIP, cable operators and wireless providers, landline providers are handicapped by antiquated telecommunication regulations that were last updated in 1994. According to the FCC, approximately 99.6 percent of the U.S. population, and 98.5 percent of people living in rural areas have one or more operators offering mobile telephone service. The increased competition in other forms of communication limits the ability of landline phone providers to dictate rates or other terms that harm consumers. Comprehensive reform will allow landline providers to improve their products and services, as well as adjust their pricing to respond to their new competitors.

Comprehensive reform allows for more competition, and just as we saw with wireless phone deregulation, costs to consumers will decrease, while choice increases. Continued regulation jeopardizes the ability of landline telephone providers to provide a competitive product and compete in today’s marketplace. A recent study by The Economist predicted that if consumers discontinue service at the current rate, “the last cord will be cut sometime in 2025”, leaving one less choice for consumers.

To find out who your legislator is and contact them regarding this issue click here.

Pass new telecom laws to create jobs in low income and minority communities

By Reverend Terrance Sims
Milwaukee Courier
January 29, 2011

Today, Wisconsin minority communities are experiencing a crisis. The downturn in the economy, both in Wisconsin and across the nation, has left numerous people unemployed with no where to turn to find a job. These financial casualties struggle every day to make ends meet and worry how they will continue to get by without gainful employment. However, this misery is exponential in minority communities. While the national unemployment rate is generally decreasing, the reverse is true in African American communities across the country, including those in Wisconsin.

According to a report released on October 26, 2010 by the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, an astonishing 53 percent of Black men in Milwaukee were unemployed. The report further found that while unemployment in the state of Wisconsin was decreasing, African American males without jobs in Milwaukee were increasing. The report also cited that Milwaukee’s unemployment rate for Black males is second in the nation only to Detroit. Based on what we have seen in the Wisconsin communities that we serve, we believe that these statistics are still relevant with African American communities in other parts of the state feeling similar pain.

However, this crisis can be partially thwarted by passing legislation that will promote investment in broadband technologies. By passing the Telecom Modernization Act, Wisconsin can stimulate increased broadband investment that will create unlimited potential for our communities. With state-of-the-art broadband investment the opportunities are endless. It can allow underserved neighborhoods to promote economic development through the establishment of minority small businesses that hire locally. It can provide Wisconsin citizens with better access to healthcare, education and jobs. And it can give the voiceless a voice in the political process so that they can have an impact on issues that affect their everyday lives.

Most importantly, telecom reform is the essential first step to job creation. According to a study by the Brookings Institute, for every one percentage point increase in broadband penetration nationally, 300,000 non-farm jobs are created throughout the entire economy. The Telecom Modernization Act puts the state’s priorities in order as it eliminates resources spent on managing outdated regulations and allows those resources to be used to increase broadband investment and create jobs.

We applaud Governor Walker for his strong commitment to job creation and we look forward to working with him and the members of the Wisconsin State Legislature to swiftly pass the Wisconsin Telecom Modernization Act. This much needed legislation will put Wisconsin back on the right path and help create the jobs that our communities so desperately need.

Obama Takes Infrastructure Push to Wisconsin

By Jonathan Weisman
Wall Street Journal
January 26, 2011

MANITOWOC, Wis.—President Barack Obama came to this manufacturing town on the shores of Lake Michigan Wednesday to amplify his State of the Union call for more federal investment in infrastructure and technology.

Greeting him was a skeptical letter in the Milwaukee paper from Wisconsin’s newly elected, tea party-backed senator, Ron Johnson.

“We must pursue policies that will first limit and then begin to reduce the size, scope and cost of government,” the Republican businessman wrote.

President Obama tours Skana Aluminum Company with executives Jerry Keehan, left, and Tom Testwuide in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

With Mr. Obama’s calls in his State of the Union address for more spending on roads, high-speed rail and clean energy, the president has effectively doubled down on the economic policies that launched his administration—just weeks after midterm election voters appeared to reject them.

The stimulus law funded a competition for federal education money called Race to the Top. The president Tuesday night called for another round.

The stimulus launched a $7.2 billion initiative to spread high-speed Internet cable to underserved areas. The State of the Union message called for expanding that effort to include wireless coverage.

The stimulus funded the largest burst of infrastructure spending since President Dwight Eisenhower built the Interstate highway system. On Tuesday, the president proposed still more infrastructure spending.

“If we as a country continue to invest in you, the American people, then I’m absolutely confident America will win the future in this century, as we did in the last,” Mr. Obama told cheering workers here at Orion Energy Systems, an energy efficiency and solar company.

In the audience was Wisconsin’s new Republican governor, Scott Walker, who in one of his first acts in office had rejected the stimulus-funded high-speed rail link that the administration had planned to build between Milwaukee and Madison.

“The train has left the station in Wisconsin,” Mr. Walker said after the president’s speech. “We’re going to focus on things we can afford.”

The argument between the parties over government spending is likely to resonate through the year and into Mr. Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

The president carried Wisconsin by 14 percentage points in 2008, but Republicans roared back two years later to capture the governor’s mansion, the state legislature, two congressional seats and the Senate seat of a Democratic icon, Russ Feingold.

Mr. Walker on Wednesday tried to focus on areas of the State of the Union speech that he agreed with, which did not include the president’s push for more federal spending to boost the nation’s international competitiveness.

Mr. Walker instead stressed the president’s less stirring—and less detailed—calls for deficit reduction and an end to spending on lawmaker’s favored projects, known as earmarks.

White House aides said the programs launched Tuesday night were investments in the nation’s future in the global economy, whereas those Mr. Obama promoted before the November election were part of an economic rescue package.

But last August, when he visited an advanced battery plant in Menomonee Falls, Wis., Mr. Obama did not just tout the stimulus’s effect on the economy. His message also looked forward.

“We expect our commitment to clean energy to lead to more than 800,000 jobs by 2012,” he told a small crowd at ZBB Energy Corp. during the August visit.

The familiar nature of the president’s new pitch brought derision from Republicans. The National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of House Republicans, declared: “Meet your new old jobs plan.”

But with Mr. Obama’s perceived swing to the political center since the November elections, voters may be newly receptive to his message.

Ken Wetenkamp, an Orion employee from nearby Plymouth, Wis., voted for Mr. Walker in November and did not vote for Mr. Obama in 2008. He said he “was a little disappointed” when the governor killed the high-speed rail project. Moreover, he said he’s warming to what he called the president’s new direction.

“I like what I heard last night,” he said.

Rachel Bongle, a production worker at the plant, was blunter. Unemployment in the Green Bay area is down to 6.7% from 7.5% a year ago. That is well below the national unemployment rate of 9.4%.

But, she said, the president is offering assistance to her state and her industry.

“We need help,” she said, “and he sees that window of opportunity.”