Benefits of telecom reform

By Amy Frederick

Printed in the Orlando Sentinel
April 27, 2011

A My Word column by AARP’s Jeff Johnson (“Phone rate free-for-all,” April 13) discussed the hardships Florida seniors are facing as the state — and country — attempt to come out of a recession.

Unfortunately, Johnson used these difficult circumstances to argue against two bills, Senate Bill 1524 and House Bill 1231, which would help Florida consumers, and especially seniors, by increasing competition among telephone companies. These bills — both called the Regulatory Reform Act — would help spur an economic recovery, which is good for all Floridians, and would unleash investments in technologies, which would help seniors, in particular.

The Regulatory Reform Act would end existing, outdated telephone regulations. Currently, these regulations concentrate only on traditional landline providers. Wireless technologies and cable don’t operate under the existing system, which creates an uneven playing field. Putting all providers on the same plane would stimulate competition. Florida seniors know competition breeds better service and improved prices for consumers.

What’s more, this new environment is likely to bring more economic investment into the state. What helps the state’s economy helps its seniors.In addition, the reforms in these bills could help seniors live longer, healthier lives. Recently, 60 Plus participated in Florida’s Ambassadors for Aging Day and highlighted the benefits to seniors of stimulating investment in broadband. Seniors with access to new technologies have better access to new health opportunities. Jose Marquez, president and CEO of the Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association, explained, “With the advent of telehealth and health information technology, we want to ensure all our seniors are using technology for their empowerment.”

The national coalitions director of 60 Plus, Matthew Kandrach, echoed Marquez, noting, “Florida’s seniors have moved into the 21st century. They connect with one another and their community on social-networking sites, arm themselves with eBooks and laptops as they travel, and video chat with their grandchildren in distant states and countries.

“Meanwhile, Florida’s current telecommunications laws were put into place decades ago, when there were no cellphones and no Internet.”

It is critical our seniors remain connected through services like broadband. Florida, particularly with its large senior population, must be able to offer telecommunication services for the greatest maximum outreach.

Because our seniors have moved beyond rotary telephones and dial-up Internet, it’s time the state’s telecom laws do, too.

Amy Frederick is president of the 60 Plus Association in Alexandria, Va.

Read the article here.

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