Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Keynote Address - Three States: One Region—Rising to the Challenge
September 15, 1999
Thank you very much. Thank you Jennifer Roseman for the really nice introduction. John Wagner, congratulations on a terrific job as chairman, and JoAnn Matthiesen, congratulations on your position and good luck to you. Penny Daniels, you don’t need this little box here, you’re very very tall in your own right, so stand tall and be proud of who you are and what you do. You have a really tough job.
It’s really great to be with you today and to appear with Governor Racicot. He and I have been able to share, on numerous occasions, our thoughts on being governors. One of the great advantages of governing in the Pacific Northwest is that we meet very frequently. And we don’t even talk about party differences. In fact, we’re kind of a fan club of each other, just helping each other. Having Governor Racicot in office this year has really been a big help as an advisor to myself, and Governor Kempthorne and of course Governor Kitzhaber has also served all of us.
We appreciate the opportunity to talk about some of the issues that will be more relevant as we enter the new century. But first I want to commend the Area Chamber for focussing your event on regionals. I want to say how much I always enjoy being in the Spokane area. I actually spend more time officially in the Spokane area than I do in Seattle. The Spokane Area provides such an excellent example of what I want for all of Washington—the way you live, the way you work, and the way you raise your families deserves recognition and praise. You support each other and work together. In your work, you are gaining national recognition for having the most productive work force. And in terms of the way you raise your families—the Spokane Area has more than 1,000 volunteers involved in our Washington Reading Corps to tutor struggling 2nd through 5th graders all across our state, exemplifying your dedication to making sure every child learns the most important skill of all—how to read—the foundation of all other academic success.
I've always said that not all wisdom resides in Olympia. And many of you would say that very little wisdom resides in Olympia. But I can say that an awful lot of wisdom resides right here. I can see it in what you've done to and for your community and in fact, the rest of the state of Washington.
The Spokane Area has a lot to be proud of. Congratulations on the improvements in the increase in the reading scores of your 4th graders. Congratulations on attracting BF Goodrich. We saw the plant as we flew in this morning. Congratulations on the recent selection of Dr. Charles Taylor as the fifth Chancellor and Chief Executive of the community colleges of Spokane. Spokane community colleges are very lucky to have more than 45,000 students a year to serve.
Let’s talk a little bit now about the theme of region. Because we are more than just separate states. We are a region. After all, our salmon don’t know anything about state lines. Polluted air and water don’t respect state boundaries; they flow into the Spokane area from other states. Our rivers were cutting their paths across the West long before there was every anything such as a state line or political boundary. And we’re tied together by a regional electrical power system. And thanks, increasingly, to technology, citizens of our respective states can do business that knows no land-based limits. And these are some of the issues we talk about when the Governors of Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon meet several times a year. Because we all know that the challenges we face in our separate states may have their solutions outside of our state boundaries. The important thing is to share the information, keep the lines of communications open, and work together on the common issues.
I want to talk a little bit about one issue that I think effects us all as a region and that’s telecommunications. On our flight over, I looked out of the window and saw the state unfold below me—geographies and occupations—and I imagined I could see all of Washington’s communities connected like a child’s dot-to-dot picture. I saw “One Washington.” Someday we will probably be able to say “One West” for that very same reason.
Paramount to our success will be the implementation of a robust telecommunications infrastructure. Not just for the state of Washington, but for the region. It's imperative that we encourage telecommunications companies to invest in our state and our region. And to compete in our state and region as well. To invest and compete. Especially in the rural parts of Washington, Montana, Idaho and Oregon.
Because if telecommunications companies do not invest in rural areas, huge, important sectors of the populations in those states will be left behind in the telecommunications revolution. With PCs, faxes and the internet, businesses can actually thrive outside of urban areas. And rural areas throughout the western United States are increasingly becoming attractive as places to live and work. And the key to the vitality of those rural western United States areas will be a robust telecommunications network.
In Washington, we’ve had success in our urban areas—we've got 40 companies competing with traditional companies for local business services and over 400 companies providing long distance—but we must concentrate on the deployment of services outside of the large urban areas so that all of our communities will be equipped for the global, high-tech economy.
That’s why the concept of Universal Service is so important in telecommunications. Let me just give you a short refresher of what Universal Service means. If you have a telephone but you can’t call anyone your telephone isn’t worth much. Or if you can call only a few people but can’t be linked nationwide or internationally, your phone still isn’t worth much. Universal service is a way to enhance the value of the complete network of telecommunications, regardless of which company provides services. Making sure everyone can get on the network, and at an affordable price.
In the old days, monopoly phone companies charge one rate to everyone in their territories. Right now basic telephone service is about $16.00 per month for one telephone with basic service. Revenues covered expenses and provided a profit, and everyone got the same service. But with the deregulation of the telecommunications industry, there are no more monopoly territories, so a company can now come in and skim off the low-cost profitable phone business in an area and not serve the high-cost customers. Usually that means leaving behind harder to serve customers in rural or less-urban areas.
The cost to serve Spokane neighborhoods and businesses for thousands of customers in one square mile is very, very cheap. And to be competitive, those companies can charge five or six dollars a month for basic telephone service and still make a profit. But in rural, remote areas, whether we’re talking about Mohaka or Forks, Washington. Where you might have two or three poles per square mile. The cost of stringing up all that wire and servicing those customers could actually be thousands of dollars a month. And with deregulation, companies can charge that amount of money.
To prevent this, so that we can all be connected in that dot-to-dot pattern I referred to, what we want to do in Washington and all across the Pacific Northwest, is to maintain but reform Universal Service so that all telecommunications companies pay into a universal fund so that companies willing to serve high-cost customers will be able to draw on that fund, cover their costs, and keep rates low. This will encourage competition and that in turn will bring down rates and bring in more advanced technology so that no one is left behind.
We’ve seen the benefits of competition in the last years, with telephone rates dropping for businesses and for long distance rates.
Finally, I just want to tell you a little bit about how fast the telecommunications industry is changing in our state, which is mirrored throughout the region. Today Washington has over 450 companies to provide telecommunications services to our citizens—everything from basic service to high-speed bandwidth to phone card service. We have some 22 traditional phone companies such as U. S. West, GTE, and Sprint, and half a dozen wireless companies. So the telecommunications revolution is on, and it will transform not just this state, but all states in the region.
And we’re already witnessing the impact of this revolution on my number one priority as Governor—making our education system the best in the nation. An example of this is our Kindergarten through 20 network. It provides high-bandwidth data and video services to all of the state’s universities, colleges and public school districts. And soon it will enable students in one part of the state to take courses that originate not just from another part of the state, but from other states and countries. So it doesn’t matter the wealth of the school district, the number of teachers in that school building, or the college’s resources—a student will be able to take any course offered in any city, state or nation. And that person will have the very best education possible.
This is not a state-owned network. The state is just one of the leading anchor tenants on private carriers’ infrastructures. But the benefit is that in many areas, the carriers provided and even wider highway or bandwidth to accommodate anticipated growth of businesses. So by leading the effort to install the K-20, the state was able to expand the infrastructure into many communities that the private telecommunications carriers never could have gotten to this quickly. We are now trying to encourage businesses to take advantage of this information highway infrastructure, so we can promote the development of businesses—telephone call centers and software developers—in rural Washington. We’re doing a good job of that now. We’re already seeing the benefits of improving the infrastructure in rural areas. Just this year, Genie Industries, which has a plant in Redmond, decided to expand to Moses Lake where they took over an old airplane hangar and intend to hire some 1,400 people.
But there’s still much more work to be done. You all know what my dream is. I simply want to make Washington State a better place to live, to work, and to raise a family.
I was just talking with Penny Daniels over the lunch about potty training Emily. Emily’s two and a half years old, and Dylan’s exactly six months old—they are two years apart. Our perspective is completely changed now that we have Emily and Dylan. Education, good jobs, and a vibrant economy are no longer abstract things to me. Now they are very real, as we all watch our children and grandchildren grow up. We are approximately 100 days away from the year 2000. A child born in the next few months will have no conception of this century—he will truly be a child of the 21st century. All that those children will know about the 20th century is what we’ve done to prepare for their future. We simply must make that a priority. We simply must not leave anyone behind. And as the borders disappear, we have an opportunity to really take advantage of that—to prepare the Pacific Northwest for the future. Let’s make the 21st century a truly exciting place for our Emilys, our Dylans, and all of our kids.
Telecommunications will play a big part in that. Telecommunications will revolutionize how we communicate with each other not just in Washington, but in Idaho, Montana, and Oregon. How we communicate, how we do business, how we connect. Working together as people, as states, as a region to make it a place where our children will live good lives.
Thank you all very much.