We’re All Winners of the Telecom Wars

June 23, 2008

For release June 25 and thereafter (461 words)

by Barry Umansky, J.D.

In 2006, the telecom wars raged in the Indiana legislature. The outcome was landmark legislation that opened the door for new competition and reduced prices, plus greater availability of broadband video and high-speed internet in the Hoosier State.  

So, who won the wars?  We all did, including all the combatants — and the rest of the nation noticed. Indiana’s telecom reform legislation, adopted through bipartisan support, has become the model for legislative reform throughout the country.

In the time since our telecom reform measures became law (March 2006) an additional 19 states have followed Indiana’s lead in passing telecom reform measures along the lines of those enacted in Indiana. 

The Indiana approach was recommended in a report developed by the Digital Policy Institute at Ball State University. Titled "The Economic Impact of Telecom Reform in Indiana," the report provided a blueprint for reforms that now have launched new competition among cable and telephone companies, increased investment, created new and improved jobs and have provided a wide range of benefits for consumers and for businesses considering locating or expanding in the state.

The key to Indiana’s legislation — statewide franchising of video services — offered such franchising opportunities to all competitors, including the cable television operators who were the major opponents to the legislation. Indeed, now virtually every cable operator in Indiana also has taken advantage of the legislation and has filed for a statewide franchise. 

Spurred by new investment in broadband video, in both urban and rural areas of the state, telecom companies also have increased the availability of DSL, fiber optic and wireless Internet throughout the state — with the beneficiaries being consumers and the entire gamut of growing Indiana businesses who thirst for faster and more reliable Internet connectivity. From Indiana hospitals expanding telemedicine connectivity among medical facilities to new industries finding an inviting broadband home in Indiana, our quality of life is on the digital upswing. Where wire and fiber aren’t practical, wireless broadband is playing its new technology role in bringing 21st-century communications to every resident in the state.

This spring Ball State’s Digital Policy Institute outlined all these advances in "An Interim Report on the Economic Impact of Telecommunications Reform in Indiana." But, as the report concludes, we are only seeing the first wave of consumer and business benefits created by the groundbreaking telecom reform legislation pioneered in Indiana.  With expanded competition and technological advances created through the Indiana telecom legislation wars, we’re all victorious — now and in our broadband future.

Barry Umansky is a professor and communications attorney who holds the Edmund F. and Virginia B. Ball Chair of Telecommunications at Ball State University. He is a senior fellow in the BSU Digital Policy Institute. A version of this essay was distributed by the university.


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