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AT&T Bills Would Impede, Not Expand, High Speed Rural Broadband Access Posted: February 17, 2015
A recent op-ed from the CEO of Baptist Health voiced support for HB 152 and SB 3, the so-called “AT&T Bills” pending before the Kentucky General Assembly. According to the op-ed, Kentucky is “hamstrung” in extending new communications by “old regulations that force them to continue investing dollars into old technologies.”
The writer is mistaken, since there is that nothing in current law requires investment in a particular technology – what IS required is that basic local exchange service meeting certain reliability and functionality standards be provided, and if AT&T, Windstream, or Cincinnati Bell can meet those quality of service and reliability requirements with new technology, they are free to do so.
The simple fact is that these new internet-protocol enabled services and home wireless service offerings, don’t yet match the reliability and functionality of the landline services that have served this nation and Commonwealth well for so long, and the disclaimers for these new services admit they may not support the medical monitoring, burglary and fire alarm, and fax services that the public relies on the time division multiplexed (TDM) phone network to provide.
CEO Hanson is right that broadband access is key to improving remote medical monitoring in rural areas, yet the AT&T bill would impede, rather than expand, rural access to high speed rural broadband. If the bill passes, no new home or business built in a rural area would have the right to landline service necessary for reliable and affordable high speed broadband access. Wireless and IP-enabled services that AT&T’s own warranty disclaimers acknowledge may lack the capability to support medical monitoring and alarm services, could be offered instead of highly reliable landline service that supports those functions.
In comments to the Federal Communications Commission, which is currently accepting comments on how to transition from the switched network to IP-enabled communications while protecting consumers and assuring that the functionality of the new services are comparable to the switched network, the Appalachian Regional Commission noted that “mobile broadband can be more costly, not as reliable [as landline service] and subject to data caps and overage charges. We are afraid comparable service at comparable rates between urban and rural areas may not pertain to broadband and/or high speed internet services.”
Baptist Health should rethink its support for the AT&T Bill, and the General Assembly should wait until the FCC finishes the pending rulemaking to assure that this transition to IP-enabled phone service supports the medical monitoring, alarm, and other functions that our highly reliable current landline services make possible.