HONOLULU – Governor Linda Lingle today highlighted the benefits of creating a Hawai‘i Communications Commission to champion the State’s efforts to lead the nation in broadband speeds, prices, accessibility, and usage. She was joined by Sen. Carol Fukunaga, chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development and Technology and Rep. Kyle Yamashita, a member of the Hawai‘i Broadband Task Force.
The Lingle-Aiona Administration worked collaboratively with the Hawai‘i Broadband Task Force, key members of the House and Senate, and industry representatives to introduce measures (SB895 / HB1077) that focus on the communications infrastructure necessary to make Hawai‘i a leader in education, science, technology, and business.
“More than ever before in history, the world is dependent upon the acquisition, availability, and communication of information,” said Governor Lingle. “In order to remain competitive in the 21st century, it is critical that Hawai‘i have robust broadband connectivity – both within the state and with the rest of the world. Broadband infrastructure is fundamental to an innovation economy and a knowledge-based society. Broadband is vital for the advancement of economic development, education, health, research and innovation, civic participation, e-government, public safety, and creative media.”
The bill would consolidate regulation of cable operators and telecommunications providers under a single entity, the Hawai‘i Communications Commission.
Cable regulation would move immediately to the Commission while regulation of telecommunications providers would move to the Commission one year later in order to allow the Commission time to hire and train staff to handle complex telecommunications issues pending in light of the ongoing Hawaiian Tel bankruptcy proceedings.
Combining regulation of these two areas under one agency will position the state to take advantage of the 21st century convergence of technologies that are used to provide voice, data and video services.
Goals of the bill include:
- Providing access to broadband communications for all persons in the state by 2012 at speeds and prices comparable to the average available in the top three performing countries in the world.
- Making broadband communications services available to all persons in the state on a competitive basis to reduce costs, increase service penetration and improve the quality of services.
- Making broadband communications available at affordable costs to low income and other disadvantaged groups.
- Increased sharing of broadband infrastructure to reduce provider costs and customer prices, encourage deployment, and ease entry into a competitive broadband marketplace.
- Increased, flexible, timely and open access to public rights-of-way and public facilities for broadband service providers.
- A streamlined permit approval process that incorporates the input of stakeholders and other interested parties.
The Commission would be:
- An attached agency to the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA).
- Funded by existing fees currently being paid to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) by telecommunications providers and to the Department’s Cable Television Division by cable operators.
- Staffed by up to 14 positions including all four existing Cable Television Division positions and up to 10 current positions transferred from other agencies.
- Headed by a single commissioner appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate.
The Commission would create a “one-stop shop” to assist businesses providing broadband, telecommunications, and video programming services, and expediting the process for them to make their services rapidly available to the public. Consolidating and streamlining the state’s regulatory processes for the telecommunications sector in the state will help to facilitate the construction of telecommunications and broadband infrastructure and the introduction, penetration, and capability of advanced broadband communications services.
Promoting open broadband architecture will encourage competition among companies that want to access and serve the Hawai‘i market. The sharing of existing communications networks could also be examined.
Similar bills were introduced by the Senate and House Majority caucuses as well as the House Minority caucus.