A-4 For Washington’s High-Tech Economy

It is time to wipe out outdated telecommunications regulations and open the door to better networks for all parts of Washington. It is time to implement an alternative.

Washington consumers witness many benefits of the high-tech economy every day. However, we do not see competitive pressures on telecommunications providers to lower prices or to develop innovative new products and services. In order to realize the full potential of the high-tech economy, the underlying communications infrastructure that serves our homes, schools, medical providers, and businesses must be continually updated and improved.

Although local phone companies can petition for “alternative forms of regulation” (AFOR) from the existing rate of return standard, there is so much ambiguity and uncertainty surrounding the alternative forms of regulation that everyone still operates under rate of return regulations.

The current rate or return system is the worst possible situation for consumers. It discourages investment, does not reward customer service, punishes innovation, and discourages new competitors from entering the marketplace.

The best way to improve poor service and limited choices is for the regulators to get out of the way and to allow consumers to determine what products and which companies will succeed in the marketplace.

H.R. 2881 and S.B. 6677 remove much of the uncertainty that has surrounded the AFOR. This regulatory certainty would allow companies that wish to innovate and move forward the flexibility to choose a regulatory model to accommodate their changing needs and would also encourage new competitors to enter the marketplace.

To unleash the full potential of the high-tech economy for consumers we need to break down obsolete government barriers to competition and innovation.

The fastest way to bring the benefits of the information technology revolution to consumers is to simply remove the government barriers that are standing in the way of progress. While these bills are not a complete solution, they are certainly a step in the right direction. Enacting AFOR regulations would move Washington toward an environment where we can eliminate barriers for all competitors. This is the first step toward a world where all Washingtonians will enjoy the full benefits of high technology.