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Content Archives: Investing in Rural Broadband

ILECs urge chairs of Senate Communications & Technology to move dereg legislation

Dear Chairs Phillips-Hill and Kane:

On behalf of all of Pennsylvania’s incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs), we respectfully ask you to consider reporting Senate Bill 341 out of the Senate Communications & Technology Committee as soon as possible.

This legislation modernizes the telecommunications sections of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Code and removes some of the decades-old, monopoly-era regulations which are irrelevant and unnecessary in today’s environment.

All the state’s ILECs are offering voice and broadband services in a highly competitive
telecommunications market while being in the only class of providers fully regulated by the
Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC). These companies provide a mere fraction of the voice subscriptions they did when most of these regulations were implemented and the cost to comply with them diverts valuable resources away from critical investments such as broadband deployment.

At the same time, SB 341 protects Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens by protecting low-income programs such as Lifeline, establishes a more customer-friendly process to resolve complaints, and retains PUC oversight with regard to ILEC provision of adequate, efficient, safe, and reasonable service.

We look forward to working with you, Senate Communications & Technology Committee
members, and all Senators on modernizing our Public Utility Code and urge you to call any of the undersigned with questions or concerns.
Sincerely,

Steven J. Samara, Pennsylvania Telephone Association

Brett Biggica, Lumen/CenturyLink

Jeanne S. Shearer, Windstream Pennsylvania

Bruce Mottern, TDS Telecom

Steven D. Tourje, NEP Telephone

Carl Yastremski, Frontier Communications

October 22, 2020

A day after a stakeholder discussion on closing the digital divide, the full Senate approved legislation, SB 1112, that would eliminate outdated Public Utility Commission regulations that are inhibiting investment in rural broadband.
“Many of the regulations that exist in the state’s Public Utility Code have been in place for decades while changes in technology and in the telecommunications marketplace have made these costly requirements unnecessary or illogical,” said Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York), the sponsor of the legislation. “Without modernizing our outdated laws, we will continue to see a widening gap in our digital divide.”

Broadband legislation advances in General Assembly

October 20, 2020

The 40-year-old law, Staggers Rail Act, deregulating the railroads has been a resounding success, writes RealClearMarkets. The same approach will work for broadband deployment.
 
“For sectors like railroads, pipelines or even broadband that pay for their own infrastructure, possessing the freedom and flexibility on these type of decisions are essential to operations, resiliency and survival. Investors put their financial capital in companies and industries where there is a sound possibility of returns. When government limits activity and returns via intrusive regulation, an industry begins to crumble.”
 

October 9, 2020

This week, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said that he stands by the repeal of net neutrality rules when the commission adopted the Restoring Internet Freedom Order in 2017.
 
Pai noted that with the order,  the FCC “overturned the previous Administration’s decision to heavily regulate the Internet like a slow-moving utility under rules developed in the 1930s and restored the longstanding, bipartisan, market-based approach,” as reported by LawStreetMedia. The FCC Chairman stated that at the time Americans were told that “if we don’t save net neutrality, you’ll get the internet one word at a time” or that you would have to pay for sites and searches, such as paying $2 per Google search.   
 

October 2, 2020

Lancaster radio station, WDAC, covers Senate committee approval of SB 1112 — Kristin Phillips-Hill legislation that streamlines telco regs allowing more funds for expansion of rural broadband.
Phillips-Hill says measure needed now more than ever so telecommunications providers “can more easily deploy broadband to areas of the states that do not currently have access.”

September 23, 2020

Senate Consumer Protection committee clears Phillips-Hill telco dereg legislation that would increase investment in rural broadband

 

Legislation that would remove major regulatory barriers for telecommunications companies to begin improving access to high-speed internet received the overwhelming support of the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee on Tuesday, according to Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York), who sponsored the measure.

“Now more than ever, it is absolutely apparent that our digital divide is leaving many behind, including students,” Phillips-Hill said.

Under Phillips-Hill’s legislation, certain telecommunications providers would be provided some much-needed regulatory relief so they can more easily deploy broadband to areas of the state that do not currently have access. It will modernize Chapters 63 and 64 of the Public Utility Code and require the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to waive certain regulations, review regulations every three years and eliminate those that are no longer necessary or in the public interest.

According to Phillips-Hill, many of the regulations which exist in the state’s Public Utility Code have been in place for decades while changes in technology and in the telecommunications marketplace have made these costly requirements unnecessary or illogical.

Chapters 63 and 64 of the Code, which contain regulations for telephone companies, have not been subject to any comprehensive review to examine their relevancy and application to the realities of today’s telecommunications industry.

“I have heard from many individuals about the challenges this has posed and they have asked for the digital divide to be closed sooner rather than later as high-speed internet is needed now during the COVID-19 pandemic more than ever in our history,” she said.

Last year, Phillips-Hill and the Senate Communications and Technology Committee, which she chairs, held a series of hearings across the state to review how to close the digital divide in Pennsylvania. Following the hearings, the committee released a report outlining the suggestions provided by stakeholders at the public hearings. One of the three key findings of the committee was to address archaic regulations in state statute.

“As we continue to advance long-term solutions, the regulatory relief I am proposing will allow our telecommunications companies to be nimbler and more responsive to the needs and challenges we face today,” she added.

September 18, 2020

The Internet Society has launched the first-ever regulatory assessment tool kit — it’s a guide to ensure regulation, technology trends don’t harm the internet’s infrastructure.
“The Internet’s ability to support the world through a global pandemic is an example of the Internet Way of Networking at its finest,” explains Joseph Lorenzo Hall, Senior Vice President for a Strong Internet, Internet Society. “Governments didn’t need to do anything to facilitate this massive global pivot in how humanity works, learns and socializes. The Internet just works – and it works thanks to the principles that underpin its success.”