FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Feb. 8, 1996
Washington "open for business,"
says Lowry following signing of federal Telecommunications Act
OLYMPIA -- Gov. Mike Lowry today
said the state of Washington is well positioned to attract the
massive telecommunications investment expected to be triggered
by President Clinton's morning signing of the federal Telecommunications
Act of 1996.
"We are in an excellent position to draw more than our share
of these companies and the family wage jobs they'll bring with
them," Lowry said. "From an economic development standpoint,
we stand to benefit handsomely from the telecommunications revolution
this federal legislation represents and the residents of our state
will benefit from the competition that will flourish."
Lowry said Washington began preparing for this landmark legislation
18 months ago when he created the Governor's Telecommunications
Policy Coordination Task Force. Washington now has a lead over
most other states in laying the groundwork for attracting the
services of telecommunications providers and the companies themselves.
Washington already has a strong core of telecommunications providers,
particularly in the wireless area pioneered by the McCaw family.
The number of wireless companies in the state tripled and their
gross revenue rose 71 percent between 1988 and 1993. The overall
number of telecommunications companies doing business in Washington
more than doubled to 522 during that same period.
In 1993, these core telecommunications jobs paid an average of
$42,074, compared to a state average wage of $25,753. Washington's
strong software industry pays even higher wages and is expected
to play a growing role in providing the software for advanced
Lowry said the Telecommunications Task Force has been identifying
potential barriers to deployment of advanced telecommunications
networks, and has generally found the state to be in good shape.
"We're definitely open for business," Lowry said. "We've
positioned ourselves to be the place to create new telecommunications
products and services. The systems are in place so these companies
can begin investing in this state with a minimum of delay."
State Revenue Director and Task Force Chair Len McComb said completion
of the group's work was held up by the pending federal legislation,
which makes sweeping changes in the way telecommunications companies
can compete and states regulate them. Now that the bill has become
law, the task force will complete a preliminary report next month
and provide an update in the fall prior to the 1997 legislative
McComb said the task force is focusing on ways to promote competition
among telecommunications companies by leveling the playing field
from a taxation standpoint, lowering any barriers to fair competition,
making sure consumer interests are protected, examining ways to
ensure that rural areas don't get left out of the telecommunications
revolution, and making sure any state investment in telecommunications
infrastructure is made efficiently and minimizes duplication.
Some of the issues being addressed by the task force already have
made their way into pending legislation, including a proposed
study of ways to bring telemedicine to rural areas, better coordination
of K-12 investments in telecommunications with other state operations,
and more consistent policies for siting cellular antennas and
attaching equipment to utility poles.
Sharon Nelson, chair of the Washington Utilities and Transportation
Commission and a task force member, said the federal telecommunications
legislation validates the steps the state has been taking to deregulate
and encourage competition among telecommunications providers in
"The federal legislation affirms and ratifies everything
we've been doing in that area," Nelson said. "We're
way ahead of other states because in many cases, what the legislation
asks us to do, we've already done."
Nelson said the state began moving toward a deregulated telecommunications
environment through the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1985 and
subsequent legislation. "New telecommunications providers
have found Washington to be a good climate in which to invest,"
she said, pointing out that AT&T, MCI, Sprint, Teleport, TCI
cable, and Electric Lightwave are among the companies already
making major investments in this state.
1. Achieving Regulatory Consistency in converging industries
The days when cable systems provided only television broadcasts
and telephone companies provided only phone service are drawing
to a close. The technologies are converging so that cable companies
may begin offering voice, data and interactive communications
and phone companies may provide video services. The federal legislation
makes sweeping changes to the regulation of these formerly disparate
industries and the state must reexamine how its current plans
to promote competition among these providers are affected by this
2. Leveling the Taxation Playing Field
The way Washington taxes telecommunications providers will play
a major role in the investment decisions these companies make
over the next several years. Washington must reexamine its taxation
policies to make sure all competitors are treated fairly in the
newly emerging open markets.
3. Balancing Local Zoning Interests with State Infrastructure Needs
A balance needs to be struck between local zoning regulations
and state infrastructure needs, specifically in the siting of
cellular towers and other communications antennas, and restrictions
placed on access to utility poles owned or controlled by local
governments and public utility districts. The public must be protected
from potential health hazards while the industry needs more certainty
and expeditious handling of permit requests.
4. Bringing Infrastructure to Rural Areas
While some rural areas enjoy telecommunications services equal
to or greater than urban areas, others fall short. Since the availability
of advanced telecommunications services has become a growing economic
development issue, the state should examine ways it can give rural
areas the tools to promote the deployment of advanced networks.
5. Leveraging the State's Role as a Large Purchaser, User and Provider of
While the state should play only a limited role in encouraging
the deployment of specific telecommunications technologies by
the private sector, it must play a larger role with regard to
overseeing and coordinating governmental telecommunications technology
investments. The state's telecommunications systems must work
as a wholly integrated and nonduplicative network. Although the
state currently does a good job of coordinating interagency telecommunications
planning, more could be done to integrate this planning with the
K-12 and higher education systems.