Governor Mitch Daniels is Hailing the Telecommunications Reform Bill

Daniels says he’s been told by industry experts and other governors that Indiana’s bill is the best in America. The intent of the legislation is to provide greater access to high speed internet. A recent national survey of CEO’s in “Site Selection” magazine found that broadband communication is the most important factor in drawing companies to a particular state. Independent think-tank, Freedom Works” says 20,000 new jobs will likely be created with these reforms.

But, not everyone is for it. Opponents fear it will actually lead to higher rates for consumers.

Governor Mitch Daniels congratulated House authors and Senate sponsors of House Bill 1279, the telecommunication reform package that will move Indiana into a leadership position among states and promote additional investment and jobs, on successful passage of the measure. The House concurred 78-17 on Tuesday (Feb. 28) to changes made to the bill by the Senate.

At a morning news conference with House and Senate sponsors of HB 1279, Daniels said their leadership and foresight for passage will bring about benefits for Indiana consumers.

House sponsors were Michael Murphy, R–Indianapolis, Eric Koch, R–Bedford, Ed Mahern, D-Indianapolis, and Robert Kuzman, D-Crown Point; Senate sponsors were Brandt Hershman, R-Monticello, Thomas Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, Lindel Hume, D-Princeton, Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, Victor Heinold, R-Kouts, Earline Rogers, D-Gary, and James Lewis, D-Charlestown.

“Industry experts and other governors have told me this bill is not simply an improvement but the best such bill in America. Because of what these legislators have done in passing this bill, we are going to see major investments in this state,” said Daniels.

“We proposed two major infrastructure leaps forward this year, the traditional infrastructure of roads, bridges, and rail, and the new infrastructure of fiber and frequency. Through this bill, Indiana has leaped forward with new infrastructure that will make our state more conducive to new investment and job creation,” he said. “This bill is best in class, and that’s the way we ought to think in Indiana. We need to get to the front of important trends and movements like this one for the benefit of Indiana consumers and workers.”

Among the highlights of HB 1279 are provisions that would:

Prohibit regulation of advanced broadband and information services, as well as non-basic telecommunications services.

Deregulate basic telecommunications service over a three-year period. At the same time, providers are permitted to increase prices by no more than $1 per month each year of the transition period. Deregulation is contingent on providers offering broadband access to at least 50 percent of the local telephone exchange area. The state’s Lifeline program — which provides financial assistance to individuals whose incomes are up to 150 percent of the federal poverty limit and who can’t afford basic telephone service – will be expanded.

Maintain Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) oversight over certain practices, including disputes among providers, interconnection agreements, and universal service, while giving the IURC some consumer protection authority regarding telecom and video service providers.

Create a statewide video franchising system to replace local franchise agreements. Current cable franchisees may opt-out or continue local agreements. The bill ensures that local governments continue to receive franchise fees equivalent to those received under local agreements and protects local communities’ access to government and education channels (called PEG channels).