Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/02/2004 10:24 AM EDT

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HCR 32-AK INFO INFRASTRUCTURE POLICY TASK FORCE                                                                               
Number 1079                                                                                                                     
CHAIR HEINZE announced that the  final order of business would be                                                               
HOUSE  CONCURRENT  RESOLUTION  NO. 32,  Relating  to  information                                                               
infrastructure   and   establishing    the   Alaska   Information                                                               
Infrastructure Policy Task Force.                                                                                               
Number 1090                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  KOHRING moved  to  adopt  the proposed  committee                                                               
substitute (CS),  Version 23-LS1717\I,  Kurtz, 3/2/04, as  a work                                                               
draft.   There  being  no  objection, Version  I  was before  the                                                               
Number 1122                                                                                                                     
SUE STANCLIFF,  House Majority Office, Alaska  State Legislature,                                                               
presented  HCR  32 on  behalf  of  Representative Kott,  sponsor.                                                               
Noting that  Susan Davis could  address technical  questions, she                                                               
explained  that   HCR  32  establishes  the   Alaska  Information                                                               
Infrastructure  Policy Task  Force,  which will  be charged  with                                                               
consideration  of   Alaska's  role  and  interest   in  long-term                                                               
information-infrastructure development.                                                                                         
MS. STANCLIFF said the  development of information infrastructure                                                               
will  provide  Alaskan  communities   with  access  to  broadband                                                               
connectivity and provide  for improved telecommunications, health                                                               
care,  education,  homeland  security, and  economic  development                                                               
opportunities.   In addition, access to  fiber-optic connectivity                                                               
will help bridge the divide  that separates rural Alaska from the                                                               
benefits  of technological  advances  realized  in urban  Alaska.                                                               
She  added  that  public-private   partnerships  have  been  used                                                               
successfully   around  the   globe  to   facilitate  information-                                                               
infrastructure development.                                                                                                     
MS.  STANCLIFF delineated  the makeup  of the  task force  as set                                                               
forth  in the  resolution, and  noted  that the  task force  will                                                               
begin work  the first day of  June [2004] and terminate  no later                                                               
than  the close  of the  first session  of the  24th legislature.                                                               
The task  force will be  charged with developing  a comprehensive                                                               
package   with   recommendations,    including   legislation   if                                                               
necessary, to meet Alaska's needs.                                                                                              
Number 1226                                                                                                                     
SUSAN  DAVIS,  Staff  to   the  Legislative  Council  Information                                                               
Technology Subcommittee,  Alaska State Legislature,  introduced a                                                               
two-minute  audiovisual  program  on  broadband  access  and  the                                                               
effect  it could  have  in Alaska.   A  transcript  of the  audio                                                               
portion follows:                                                                                                                
     Rural Alaska  has the infrastructure  for instantaneous                                                                    
     and reliable access to  homeland security and emergency                                                                    
     response,   telemedicine,   education,   communication,                                                                    
     sustainable  economic   development.     Investment  in                                                                    
     information-technology   infrastructure   has   enabled                                                                    
     countries  to   increase  foreign   direct  investment,                                                                    
     sustain   economic  growth   and  employment,   achieve                                                                    
     balanced regional development,  increase gross domestic                                                                    
     Ireland's  information-technology  infrastructure is  a                                                                    
     shining  example   of  what  Alaska  can   achieve  and                                                                    
     surpass.    Through  public-private  partnerships,  the                                                                    
     Irish   government  and   its   partners  planned   and                                                                    
     developed  a   fiber-optic  infrastructure.     Ireland                                                                    
     subsequently  became  a  major  player  in  the  global                                                                    
     Today  Ireland,  the  "Celtic tiger,"  is  the  largest                                                                    
     exporter of  software products in  Europe, home  to 300                                                                    
     leading electronics companies, and a  base for 9 of the                                                                    
     top  10  pharmaceutical companies  in  the  world.   In                                                                    
     2000,   Ireland  exported   $13.3   billion  worth   of                                                                    
     knowledge-based  products  to the  global  marketplace.                                                                    
     Aggressive  leveraging  of  private funds  with  public                                                                    
     credit  and resources  enabled Ireland  to develop  the                                                                    
     infrastructure needed  to move  its dated  economy into                                                                    
     the center lane of the global economy.                                                                                     
     This  is not  out  of reach  for  Alaska.   Fiber-optic                                                                    
     cables running  deep beneath the sea  provide state-of-                                                                    
     the-art telecommunications from  Alaska's largest urban                                                                    
     hubs to  the Lower 48 and  the rest of the  world.  The                                                                    
     fiber-optic [cable]  already stretches  between Prudhoe                                                                    
     Bay, Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Juneau.                                                                                     
     Alaska's communities  are dispersed across  its immense                                                                    
     landscape, and  the gaps in our  infrastructure are the                                                                    
     result of  federal land laws,  vast distances,  and the                                                                    
     relative newness  of our state.   No paved  highway may                                                                    
     ever  connect some  of our  towns and  villages to  the                                                                    
     outside world.   But a  telecommunications superhighway                                                                    
     can  link them  all.   Innovative engineering  concepts                                                                    
     and robust technologies in use  today can be put to use                                                                    
     in   Alaska,   hardwiring  far-flung   communities   to                                                                    
     logistics    hubs.       With   a    telecommunications                                                                    
     superhighway,  the Alaskan  economy can  evolve into  a                                                                    
     21st century economic powerhouse.                                                                                          
     ...   Alaska's  telecommunications   superhighway  will                                                                    
     offer  the  opportunity  for   every  city,  town,  and                                                                    
     village  in  Alaska  to  have  instantaneous,  reliable                                                                    
     access  to homeland  security  and emergency  response,                                                                    
     telemedicine,  education,   communication,  sustainable                                                                    
     economic   development.       However,    today   these                                                                    
     communities  remain isolated  from each  other and  the                                                                    
     rest of the world.  Imagine Alaska connected.                                                                              
MS. STANCLIFF pointed out that committee packets contain related                                                                
Number 1429                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA  noted that she'd  just spent the  last two                                                               
hours  with  Representative  Kott  [in the  House  Community  and                                                               
Regional Affairs  Standing Committee meeting] looking  at the 911                                                               
emergency system.   Saying telemedicine is high on  her list, she                                                               
asked whether the  two systems are complementary and  use some of                                                               
the same technologies.                                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE   KOTT    answered   that   they    are   somewhat                                                               
complementary;  the  911  emergency system  and  this  particular                                                               
resolution  would dovetail  nicely.   He said  this [task  force]                                                               
will  look  at  expansion  of the  current  emergency  system  in                                                               
Alaska,  as well  as other  arenas, in  discussing broadband  and                                                               
fiber optics;  he said this  has been  a unique priority  of his.                                                               
Highlighting Ireland's  fiber-optics project that began  seven or                                                               
eight years ago  as a classic example  of what can be  done in an                                                               
economy with  inventive broadband technology or  fiber optics, he                                                               
said Ireland's economy has expanded enormously.                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  KOTT suggested  that  vital to  Alaska and  local                                                               
communities  is  information  technology in  general,  especially                                                               
fiber  optics;  he  mentioned telemedicine,  tele-education,  and                                                               
developing  economies where  none  exist  currently.   Indicating                                                               
some  projects  have already  been  completed,  he cited  one  in                                                               
Hoonah that may occur.  He  conveyed his intention that this task                                                               
force will identify all the "tentacles  that we can reach out" to                                                               
various  communities, after  first  identifying  what exists  and                                                               
what is lacking, in order to  devise a plan.  Offering his belief                                                               
that two  things drive a  state - efficient energy  and efficient                                                               
information  - he  said  that's  what this  task  force would  be                                                               
charged with accomplishing, to develop a long-term plan.                                                                        
Number 1611                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA  again referred to discussion  [that day in                                                               
the House Community and Regional  Affairs Standing Committee] and                                                               
mentioned  different  levels of  government  and  the ability  to                                                               
decide within  communities how to do  what they want to  do.  She                                                               
asked what  role this task  force would play in  interfacing with                                                               
homeland  security  and  911  systems,   for  example,  and  what                                                               
autonomy it would allow for "different kinds of layers."                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE KOTT  replied that  the task force  would evaluate                                                               
the  current  911  system;  this fairly  much  relates  to  local                                                               
municipalities and their  enhanced systems as heard  [that day in                                                               
the  House Community  and Regional  Affairs Standing  Committee].                                                               
Beyond that,  it would reach  out into rural sectors;  that's why                                                               
the task force includes a  member from the Department of Military                                                               
&  Veterans' Affairs,  which is  charged with  emergency response                                                               
including the 911 system and homeland security.                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  KOTT went  on  to  say he  doesn't  know all  the                                                               
details  about the  current reach  of  the 911  system and  where                                                               
things are  now with the state  system, but it certainly  will be                                                               
addressed.  He mentioned the  partnership with the private sector                                                               
and figuring out how to reach  into other areas of the state that                                                               
are currently covered under the 911 system.                                                                                     
Number 1718                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  CISSNA asked  whether local  governments will  be                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  KOTT replied  that they  absolutely could  be and                                                               
     We've identified  three or four positions  that we want                                                                    
     to  see   included,  and   we've  left   the  remaining                                                                    
     membership, the at-large folks,  to be determined.  And                                                                    
     it would be my objective  to make sure there's a broad-                                                                    
     based  group of  technical  people  that are  involved,                                                                    
     from the private sector and  not government, that would                                                                    
     represent not only  the urban area, but  rural areas as                                                                    
     well, because  that's where we're  trying to  reach out                                                                    
     into, is the  rural segments of the state.   And that's                                                                    
     what ...  I believe the  current objectives are  in the                                                                    
     information technology  within the private  sector, for                                                                    
     instance, GCI, with their fiber optics.                                                                                    
Number 1785                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA  asked whether Representative Kott  sees it                                                               
as appropriate, then, to have  local urban and rural governmental                                                               
representation somewhere  [in the  resolution] "so that  we don't                                                               
leave any  of those parts  out," wind up with  unfunded mandates,                                                               
and leave behind  some opportunities that local  people might see                                                               
but others might miss.                                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE  KOTT replied  that it's  not the  intent to  pass                                                               
along  unfunded mandates.    This is  a  partnership between  the                                                               
public and the private sector  to complete "whatever project they                                                               
determine  is feasible  that we  should go  on with."   With  the                                                               
[task force]  having 13 members, there  is a limit on  the number                                                               
of  people who  can be  selected from  various municipalities  or                                                               
rural communities.   He expressed hope that it will  be a "broad-                                                               
based group who are technical  in nature, that bring something to                                                               
the table as far as how to get  from here to there," and said the                                                               
intent is  that they'll provide  the task force with  the ability                                                               
to  have the  vision  to  go forward,  using  that  vision in  an                                                               
effective  way to  drive  the task  force to  a  conclusion.   He                                                               
     This  is  not  to  say that  just  because  you're  not                                                                    
     identified  as a  member of  this task  force that  you                                                                    
     cannot participate.   Obviously, the more,  the better.                                                                    
     I'm certain that if there  are meetings in Anchorage or                                                                    
     Fairbanks,  there'll be  some  representation from  the                                                                    
     various municipalities.   But,  clearly, the  intent is                                                                    
     to provide the task force with expertise.                                                                                  
Number 1883                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KOTT [moved to adopt] Amendment 1, as follows:                                                                   
     Page 3, line 8, after "not later than"                                                                                     
     Insert "the first day of"                                                                                                  
     Delete "before the day"                                                                                                    
     Page 3, line 9                                                                                                             
     Delete "is scheduled to convene"                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE KOTT  explained that  the two amendments  he would                                                               
offer clarify what  he is trying to accomplish.   The intent with                                                               
Amendment 1  is that the  task force  will provide its  report to                                                               
the 24th legislature  prior to its starting date.   He noted that                                                               
the language  would read  "not later  than the  first day  of the                                                               
First  Regular  Session  of   the  Twenty-Fourth  [Alaska  State]                                                               
Number 1938                                                                                                                     
CHAIR HEINZE  asked whether there  was any objection  to adopting                                                               
Amendment 1.  There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                      
Number 1944                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KOTT [moved to adopt] Amendment 2, as follows:                                                                   
     Page 3, line 5                                                                                                             
     Insert  "the task  force  members  shall serve  without                                                                    
     compensation   but  are   entitled  to   transportation                                                                    
       expenses and per diem as authorized for members of                                                                       
     boards and commissions under AS 39.20.180"                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE KOTT  explained the intent, if  there are meetings                                                               
away  from where  [task  force members]  live,  that [the  state]                                                               
should at  least bear the  cost of providing  the transportation,                                                               
as done for other public employees.                                                                                             
Number 1985                                                                                                                     
CHAIR HEINZE  asked whether there  was any objection  to adopting                                                               
Amendment 2.  There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                      
Number 1996                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING  spoke in  support of the  resolution, but                                                               
suggested this should  be looked at as a first  step in the right                                                               
direction in  terms of encouraging  Alaska's economy  and getting                                                               
telecommunications  going  in  the  state, as  seen  in  Ireland.                                                               
Noting his  interest was sparked  by the audiovisual  program, he                                                               
expressed   the  desire   to  further   explore  what   Ireland's                                                               
government has done to encourage that type of development.                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  KOHRING surmised  that  people  don't just  start                                                               
locating  their companies  in a  state or  country without  other                                                               
elements such as tax credits,  exemptions, or land being provided                                                               
for companies to  build facilities on.  He cited  Washington as a                                                               
state  where  the government's  efforts  have  paid off  in  this                                                               
regard,  and  suggested  the  need to  do  something  similar  in                                                               
Alaska.  He  emphasized that although HCR 32 is  a good start, it                                                               
should be taken further.                                                                                                        
NUMBER 2065                                                                                                                     
CHAIR HEINZE  remarked that Ireland's  economy has  expanded 7-10                                                               
percent each year due to this, and said it's a good point.                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  KOTT agreed  Representative  Kohring  had made  a                                                               
good point.   He said  the expansion of  [Ireland's] fiber-optics                                                               
network certainly  has led to  economic growth,  and acknowledged                                                               
there  might  be  other  reasons   such  as  those  mentioned  by                                                               
Representative Kohring.   He encouraged Chair  Heinze to consider                                                               
putting together a trip to Ireland.                                                                                             
CHAIR HEINZE concurred with looking at Ireland's model.                                                                         
Number 2121                                                                                                                     
STEVE WALKER, Broadband Services  Department, GCI, discussed what                                                               
GCI has done  with regard to broadband delivery  to rural Alaskan                                                               
communities.   He  said  GCI  is in  the  midst  of a  three-year                                                               
project  to expand  broadband Internet  services statewide.   The                                                               
end  product  will  be  the   delivery  of  high-speed  broadband                                                               
connectivity to more than 150  of about 200 Bush communities; the                                                               
remaining  communities are  served only  by [AT&T]  Alascom.   He                                                               
explained that  [GCI's] residential and  small-business customers                                                               
can choose  from services with speeds  "up to 64K or  up to 256K"                                                               
at prices  comparable to Anchorage rates,  with service available                                                               
in villages as small as Birch Creek, which has 28 people.                                                                       
MR.  WALKER reported  that during  2002-2003, GCI  committed $2.1                                                               
million to  expanding services to  70 rural  Alaskan communities;                                                               
maps  in packets  show where  service is  already provided  or is                                                               
planned for  2004.  In  2004, service  is planned for  another 68                                                               
villages,  which   will  complete   GCI's  commitment   to  bring                                                               
broadband service to  all the Alaskan communities it  serves.  In                                                               
partnership with  Alaska village initiatives, [GCI]  will provide                                                               
not  only Internet  access, but  also  the knowledge-based  tools                                                               
necessary to take full advantage  of associated economic and job-                                                               
related  opportunities.   He conveyed  the expectation  that this                                                               
year's portion will be completed in mid-September.                                                                              
MR.  WALKER provided  examples where  community  demand has  been                                                               
identified  and met  "through industry  and public  cooperation."                                                               
He  said  GCI  provides  more  than  105  telehealth  sites  with                                                               
broadband  connections  and   cited  examples;  mentioned  having                                                               
fiber, microwave,  and satellite  connections for  all locations;                                                               
and said  health providers are  connected with  regional hospital                                                               
physicians and some in the Lower  48.  He also gave details about                                                               
the  data-delivery capabilities  for telehealth  and high-quality                                                               
video   conferencing.      In  response   to   a   request   from                                                               
Representative Cissna,  he agreed  [to provide  information about                                                               
the different sites and history that he'd been discussing].                                                                     
Number 2306                                                                                                                     
CHAIR HEINZE  inquired about providing  telehealth from  a clinic                                                               
in Bethel, for example, [through connection to] the Lower 48.                                                                   
MR.  WALKER   answered  that  it  depends   on  the  connectivity                                                               
requested.   For  example, he  said  [GCI] provides  connectivity                                                               
between the Kotzebue region and the Lower 48.                                                                                   
CHAIR HEINZE, noting that she'd  recently seen x-ray telemedicine                                                               
in  Talkeetna,  asked  whether sending  an  x-ray  to  Providence                                                               
Hospital  in  Anchorage, for  example,  is  what Mr.  Walker  was                                                               
referring to.                                                                                                                   
MR.  WALKER  answered   in  the  affirmative.     He  added  that                                                               
organizations have  developed what  are called  telehealth cards.                                                               
A  computerized otoscope  is used  to look  at infections  down a                                                               
person's nose  or throat;  those images  and a  patient's history                                                               
can be stored, and that data  forwarded to a regional health care                                                               
center, for example.                                                                                                            
TAPE 04-13, SIDE B                                                                                                            
Number 2355                                                                                                                     
TINA PIDGEON,  Vice President of Federal  and Regulatory Affairs,                                                               
GCI, expressed appreciation for the  interest in an on-site study                                                               
of  telecommunications   services  in  Ireland.     Referring  to                                                               
Mr. Walker's testimony,  she said  there is a  lot to  be excited                                                               
about   with  regard   to  ongoing   and  future   infrastructure                                                               
investments in Alaska that  are delivering high-quality, advanced                                                               
broadband connectivity and services therefrom.                                                                                  
MS. PIDGEON, noting  that GCI had reviewed an  earlier version of                                                               
HCR 32, offered three principal recommendations as follows:                                                                     
     First, we  urge you to  take the opportunity  to assess                                                                    
     Alaska's   current    telecom   infrastructure   before                                                                    
     constituting  the   task  force.     We   anticipate  -                                                                    
     particularly  based on  some of  the services  that Mr.                                                                    
     Walker described - that  you'll be pleasantly surprised                                                                    
     at  what  you  will  find  regarding  the  extent,  the                                                                    
     quality,  and even  the sophistication  of the  telecom                                                                    
     infrastructure that's  available today  in Alaska.   In                                                                    
     the  event  that  the task  force  is  constituted,  we                                                                    
     recommend  that   one  of  the  first   tasks  that  it                                                                    
     undertake   is  to   inventory  existing   and  planned                                                                    
     broadband infrastructure.                                                                                                  
     As a second  matter, we suggest that if  the task force                                                                    
     is  created, ...  industry members  should be  included                                                                    
     among   its  membership.     We   think  ...   industry                                                                    
     representatives   can   provide  invaluable   expertise                                                                    
     that's  based on  actual  experience  in providing  ...                                                                    
     these and other services in Alaska.                                                                                        
     And, finally,  any task force should  give great weight                                                                    
     to the telecom  advances and infrastructure investments                                                                    
     that   have  already   been   made  available   through                                                                    
     competitive  entry,  and   to  consider  the  practical                                                                    
     challenges  of  designing  technology  that  meets  the                                                                    
     needs of  rural communities  at urban rates,  which GCI                                                                    
     has been able to do.                                                                                                       
Number 2268                                                                                                                     
MS. PIDGEON  provided background  and statistics, saying  GCI has                                                               
been   at  the   forefront  of   deploying  new   and  innovative                                                               
technologies  to improve  and advance  telecommunications service                                                               
since  1982;  significant  investments, largely  through  private                                                               
capital, have  dramatically improved  Alaska's telecommunications                                                               
infrastructure since  then.  For  example, GCI has  invested more                                                               
than $530 million in Alaska's  telecom infrastructure since 1996,                                                               
including approximately  $64 in telemedicine and  $138 million in                                                               
two  undersea  fiber-optic  cable   projects;  the  second  cable                                                               
project, currently underway,  will substantially fortify Alaska's                                                               
fiber-optic    network    and    the    security    of    Alaskan                                                               
telecommunications, she predicted.                                                                                              
MS.  PIDGEON  reported  that  as  a result  of  these  and  other                                                               
investments, coverage has increased  significantly in Alaska over                                                               
the last  several years  for both  basic telephone  and broadband                                                               
services.  More  than 96 percent of Alaskan  homes have telephone                                                               
service, whereas  the national average  is 95.2 percent.   As for                                                               
broadband connectivity,  Alaska is  first in  individual Internet                                                               
use, estimated at 71.6 percent,  compared with a national average                                                               
of about  54 percent; Alaska  is also first in  home subscription                                                               
to  broadband  service, at  about  26  percent, compared  with  a                                                               
national average of  13 percent.  She  surmised this demonstrates                                                               
that Alaskans  demand these types  of services and use  them when                                                               
available.  Returning to HCR 32,  she urged the committee to look                                                               
at  the  current  status  of  broadband  connectivity  and  fiber                                                               
deployment in Alaska.                                                                                                           
CHAIR HEINZE asked  Ms. Pidgeon to provide a written  copy of her                                                               
MS. PIDGEON agreed to do that.                                                                                                  
Number 2161                                                                                                                     
IK ICARD, Consultant,  began by saying he is  working with Kodiak                                                               
Kenai Fiber Company to extend  fiber-optic cable out of Anchorage                                                               
and down  along the  Kenai Peninsula to  Kodiak Island.   Voicing                                                               
support for  HCR 32,  he said  he believes  this is  an important                                                               
issue  that only  the  state  can undertake,  since  the type  of                                                               
telecommunications  infrastructure  development that  will  offer                                                               
broadband  services to  communities  throughout  the state  often                                                               
isn't economically  feasible for the private  sector to undertake                                                               
alone; however, the projects can  be encouraged and made feasible                                                               
through public-private partnerships.                                                                                            
MR. ICARD said a task force  dedicated to an analysis of existing                                                               
infrastructure and  recommendations for further development  is a                                                               
timely  and necessary  first step  for the  state.   He discussed                                                               
identifying  preferred  levels  of services  and  suggested  that                                                               
telemedicine-related   broadband  services   for  evaluation   of                                                               
patients and treatments  might require a higher  level of service                                                               
than  would  the  sharing  of   records  and  consultation  among                                                               
doctors, for example.                                                                                                           
MR. ICARD highlighted  the process gone through  by countries and                                                               
states that  lead the world  in information technology;  the need                                                               
for backbone  infrastructure to support  it; and  the recognition                                                               
that in  many cases the  investment levels, rates of  return, and                                                               
payback  periods make  projects difficult  or impossible  for the                                                               
private  sector  to undertake  alone.    He noted  that  Ireland,                                                               
Iceland, India, Israel, Australia,  Southeast Asia, and Malaysia,                                                               
for  example,   all  have  taken   steps  to   encourage  private                                                               
investment  in local  infrastructure.   He said  Ireland has  the                                                               
fastest-growing economy  in the  OECD [Organization  for Economic                                                               
Cooperation  and Development];  has  seen growth  over 7  percent                                                               
every year  since 1993, with a  drop in the unemployment  rate as                                                               
well; and has productivity levels among the highest in Europe.                                                                  
Number 2018                                                                                                                     
MR. ICARD voiced his belief  that Alaska has a predisposition for                                                               
an  even   greater  infrastructure  build-out,   including  fiber                                                               
optics, satellite,  microwave, and  wireless infrastructure.   He                                                               
noted that Alaska has abundant,  robust infrastructure already in                                                               
place  to   major  urban  hubs;  that   Prudhoe  Bay,  Fairbanks,                                                               
Anchorage, Juneau,  and the Lower  48 are all connected  by fiber                                                               
optics; and that GCI is  installing yet another fiber-optic trunk                                                               
line.   This  [resolution] is  an  opportunity for  the state  to                                                               
build  on   that  and  leverage   private  equity   to  encourage                                                               
infrastructure build-out and  economic diversification throughout                                                               
Alaska's communities.                                                                                                           
MR. ICARD said Alaska, at  62 percent, has the highest per-capita                                                               
use of computers in the home.   He suggested the slumping fishing                                                               
and oil industries  and Alaska's "terrific" labor base  make it a                                                               
prime candidate for  further economic diversification facilitated                                                               
by broadband development.   Mentioning a confluence  of state and                                                               
federal  interests, he  pointed  out that  homeland security  and                                                               
defense  considerations   for  the   U.S.  converge   with  state                                                               
interests,  for example.    He urged  support for  HCR  32 as  an                                                               
important step for Alaska in  evaluating and encouraging a robust                                                               
telecommunications infrastructure in the state.                                                                                 
Number 1952                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  KOHRING asked  what  those  other countries  have                                                               
done  beyond developing  telecommunications  infrastructure.   He                                                               
reiterated his  belief that more  must be done; he  mentioned the                                                               
possibility of  exemptions, tax  credits, making  land available,                                                               
or  providing   other  types  of  infrastructure   such  as  port                                                               
facilities.    He cited  Canada's  Yukon  Territory -  which  has                                                               
beautiful  highways, a  railroad  track up  to  Fort Nelson,  and                                                               
electrical  distribution lines  -  as a  place  without a  robust                                                               
economy despite its infrastructure.                                                                                             
MR. ICARD noted  that Representative Kohring had  listed a number                                                               
of    mechanisms   available    to   encourage    "public-private                                                               
partnerships,"  and  pointed out  that  this  term has  different                                                               
meanings; these include  tax benefits and tax  abatements such as                                                               
the  State of  Washington  has  extended to  Boeing,  as well  as                                                               
bonding authority and  the ability for private  investors to have                                                               
their investment leveraged and the  debt terms extended.  He said                                                               
such  mechanisms can  facilitate projects  that otherwise  aren't                                                               
economically feasible for private investors.                                                                                    
MR.  ICARD  characterized infrastructure  as  a  tool to  provide                                                               
economic diversification  and development.  He  said without that                                                               
infrastructure  to begin  with, there  is no  means to  encourage                                                               
some of the "most recent,  highest advances in telemedicine" such                                                               
as participation  in real-time evaluations and  even treatment of                                                               
patients beyond  simply trading  "high data  density" information                                                               
such as  x-rays or  MRI [magnetic  resonance imaging]  reports or                                                               
transmission  of   records  and  prescriptions.     He  mentioned                                                               
marketing and  interactive efforts  between retail  and wholesale                                                               
providers,  saying these  are facilitated  by broadband  services                                                               
regardless of  where those  markets are.   He asked  whether he'd                                                               
hit  some  of  the  salient points  of  Representative  Kohring's                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING said not  really, but acknowledged that it                                                               
was an  in-depth question.   He thanked  Mr. Icard and  said he'd                                                               
research it himself.                                                                                                            
Number 1791                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD  followed up, emphasizing  the importance                                                               
of  education.   He  suggested one  common  thread for  [Ireland,                                                               
Iceland, India, and  Israel] is the high degree  to which they've                                                               
invested in  higher education  and educational  opportunities for                                                               
their  students;  these are  some  of  the most  highly  educated                                                               
workforces  in the  world.   Agreeing  that  infrastructure is  a                                                               
necessary  part,  he highlighted  education  as  the key  to  the                                                               
"economic miracle" in those other countries.                                                                                    
Number 1736                                                                                                                     
FRED PEARCE,  Ph.D., Professor of  Telecommunications, University                                                               
of  Alaska Anchorage,  voiced wholehearted  support  for HCR  32.                                                               
Agreeing  that broadband  telecommunication services  clearly are                                                               
needed,  he emphasized  the corollary  development of  knowledge-                                                               
based  approaches and  industries  as  a key  to  the success  of                                                               
[Ireland,  Iceland, India,  and Israel].   Dr.  Pearce spoke  for                                                               
engendering both  an infrastructure  and an approach  that allows                                                               
development  of local  jobs.   He also  mentioned work  "here and                                                               
through the Alaska Rural Development  Council" to ensure that for                                                               
[health-related] consultations  done in  rural Alaska,  the money                                                               
for  primary care  should "pool  up" around  those consultations,                                                               
rather than going to Anchorage or outside the state.                                                                            
Number 1660                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA asked how this  task force can help in some                                                               
telemedicine-related challenges  such as  the ability  to finance                                                               
the system and get reimbursement.                                                                                               
DR.  PEARCE  replied that  issues  of  reimbursement are  "rather                                                               
edgy" and  are key.   For most  of the research  he did  from the                                                               
beginning of 1996 through 2001, he reported, the cost-                                                                          
reimbursement  model  cannot  justify  the  cost;  the  cost  per                                                               
transaction far  exceeds the current  cost per  transaction based                                                               
on the  current transportation-based  model.   Nonetheless, these                                                               
broadband  services  will  make available  services  that  aren't                                                               
currently available.   For  instance, telemedicine  activities in                                                               
Alaska  to  date  have revolved  around  data  acquisition,  data                                                               
movement, and high-resolution imaging.                                                                                          
DR.  PEARCE, addressing  whether  these broadband-based  services                                                               
and  "teleconsultations" will  take  root in  rural Alaska,  said                                                               
it's as much  a function of the training  and educational support                                                               
of  "folks on  the rural  side" as  in Anchorage.   For  example,                                                               
handheld health care devices do no  good if people in rural sites                                                               
don't have  active training and  support.   "I think there  are a                                                               
lot of other issues here ...  than the broadband issues, though I                                                               
support them wholeheartedly," he concluded.                                                                                     
Number 1539                                                                                                                     
WANETTA  AYERS, Executive  Director,  Southwest Alaska  Municipal                                                               
Conference  (SWAMC),  began  by  explaining  that  SWAMC  is  the                                                               
economic   development   district   and   the   Alaska   Regional                                                               
Development Organization  (ARDOR) for  Southwest Alaska.   Urging                                                               
support  for HCR  32,  she  specified that  she  was speaking  on                                                               
behalf of the  54 communities and 131 members of  SWAMC.  Calling                                                               
creation  of this  proposed task  force a  much-needed step,  she                                                               
noted that similar  efforts have been undertaken  by other states                                                               
to  determine  how state  government  can  use its  resources  to                                                               
create  an  environment  in  which the  private  sector  has  the                                                               
incentive to provide information  technology - usually, broadband                                                               
fiber-based technology - to small, rural markets.                                                                               
MS.  AYERS reported  that  Colorado,  Minnesota, North  Carolina,                                                               
Oregon,   and  Vermont   have  developed   statewide  information                                                               
technology  strategies  to  help   bridge  the  "digital  divide"                                                               
between   urban  and   rural   areas,   enhancing  the   economic                                                               
competitiveness  of  rural  areas and  transforming  the  overall                                                               
economies of these forward-thinking states.                                                                                     
Number 1490                                                                                                                     
MS.  AYERS   encouraged  committee  members  to   look  at  three                                                               
resources:    the  web  site  "thinkvermont.com/technology";  the                                                               
Progressive Policy Institute's new  economy index for 2002, where                                                               
Alaska ranked 1st in online  population and 6th in technology and                                                               
tools,  but 49th  in broadband  access and  online manufacturers,                                                               
with  an  aggregate  digital-economy   ranking  of  36th;  and  a                                                               
benchmark study of state  telecommunication networks developed by                                                               
the State  of Colorado  that provides  an excellent  grid showing                                                               
how  government  services  and education  are  addressed  through                                                               
telecommunications  in  all 50  states.    Ms. Ayers  noted  that                                                               
Colorado's study  showed, for  instance, that  10 years  ago Ohio                                                               
integrated  a fiber-optic  backbone with  an 800-megahertz  radio                                                               
system  and  replaced  its  existing  microwave  system,  thereby                                                               
reaping many millions of dollars' worth of savings.                                                                             
MS.  AYERS  returned  attention  to Alaska  and  the  region  she                                                               
represents, citing  an example and emphasizing  that fiber-optics                                                               
technology will complement existing  technology and create a fair                                                               
playing field  for existing stakeholders.   She pointed  out that                                                               
although a  number of localized fiber-related  projects are being                                                               
developed, they  aren't interconnected; without a  stable, secure                                                               
fiber-optic  link, they  only  provide a  marginal  benefit on  a                                                               
localized level.  She again urged support for HCR 32.                                                                           
Number 1332                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  HEINZE requested  that Ms.  Ayers  provide a  copy of  the                                                               
MS. AYERS agreed to that.                                                                                                       
Number 1316                                                                                                                     
SUE   COGSWELL,   Director,   Prince   William   Sound   Economic                                                               
Development  District   (PWSEDD),  indicated   PWSEDD  represents                                                               
Tatitlek, Chenega Bay, Whittier, Valdez,  and Cordova.  She spoke                                                               
in support  of HCR 32,  highlighting the need for  certainty that                                                               
all   regions   in   Prince  William   Sound   are   covered   by                                                               
telecommunications   and  fiber-optic   service;  although   some                                                               
communities  have fiber  optics now,  they aren't  linked to  the                                                               
statewide  system.   She  cited  an example  of  a possible  link                                                               
within  Prince  William  Sound that  would  assist  with  various                                                               
emergency  responses  as  well   as  commercial  tanker  traffic.                                                               
Saying she thinks this is  a great opportunity for state, public,                                                               
and  private   entities  to  work   together  for   a  "terrific,                                                               
innovative solution  to just  about every  problem we  have," she                                                               
closed by saying, "All of our communities support this effort."                                                                 
Number 1193                                                                                                                     
JASON  OHLER   informed  members  that  he   has  a  professional                                                               
relationship with the digital-media  industry in Ireland and will                                                               
go there  next April, at which  time he'll make a  serious effort                                                               
to  get  details.   He  noted  that  when  he'd asked  about  the                                                               
"miracle" there, people from within  the media industry had cited                                                               
leadership and cooperation, and had  said the government had come                                                               
forward and tried to make it easier for the industry.                                                                           
MR. OHLER  shared his dream of  waking up one day  and reading in                                                               
the newspaper that the governor has  said it's time for Alaska to                                                               
develop  its economy.   Mr.  Ohler explained  that although  that                                                               
wouldn't cost  anything, he  could take that  headline and  go to                                                               
the National  Science Foundation  or the  Bill [&  Melinda] Gates                                                               
Foundation, for example,  where doors would open  because he'd be                                                               
able to show  them that Alaska has the  political climate they're                                                               
looking for.                                                                                                                    
MR. OHLER recalled  talking to someone recently  about a [federal                                                               
Technology  Opportunities  Program  (TOP)] grant  for  innovative                                                               
technology;  the person  had almost  immediately  asked what  the                                                               
attitude  in Alaska  is  and  whether it's  possible  to get  the                                                               
governor  behind this.   Mr.  Ohler  remarked, "Those  of us  who                                                               
don't come seeking money but  come seeking support, ... those are                                                               
the things that we  look for.  And I can't tell  you the value to                                                               
those of us who are trying to do ... those kinds of things."                                                                    
MR.  OHLER  explained that  foremost  in  his mind  is  community                                                               
sustainability.   Noting that today's discussion  primarily had a                                                               
commercial bent,  which is fine,  he reminded listeners  that any                                                               
build-out  of the  telecommunication  infrastructure system  also                                                               
has benefits for health, education,  and government services.  He                                                               
said there  are tremendously  efficient ways  for [the  state] to                                                               
communicate  with  the public,  for  the  public to  get  fishing                                                               
licenses and so  forth.  He suggested tremendous  progress can be                                                               
made in that  vein, and highlighted the need  to include Alaska's                                                               
citizens in  the governmental process  once that  connectivity is                                                               
there and is affordable.                                                                                                        
Number 1024                                                                                                                     
MR. OHLER noted that  one hat he wears is as  a researcher at the                                                               
university.   Saying  the research  project still  waiting to  be                                                               
done  is the  "longitudinal effects  of bringing  bandwidth to  a                                                               
small community," he explained:                                                                                                 
     The  progress goes  like this:    You go  in, you  take                                                                    
     baseline data; the baseline data  is, how do people get                                                                    
     their health  needs met,  their educational  needs met;                                                                    
     how do  they interact with  government; how do  they do                                                                    
     business.   Then you bring  in bandwidth and  you bring                                                                    
     in -  and this  is absolutely  key -  ... training.   I                                                                    
     can't tell you  how many failed projects  are out there                                                                    
     because  people  dropped  bandwidth  on  them  and  ...                                                                    
     waited for  them to  get the  education they  needed to                                                                    
     figure out what to do with that stuff.                                                                                     
MR. OHLER went on  to say that the third phase  of such a project                                                               
is  looking  at   the  impacts  such  as   whether  health  care,                                                               
education, and  commerce and economic development  have improved.                                                               
He added that  there is no better way of  including people in the                                                               
opportunities of living in the year  2004 - to "teach someone how                                                               
to fish, rather than continue to  give them fish" - than bringing                                                               
them into the benefits of living in the Internet age.                                                                           
Number 0928                                                                                                                     
MR. OHLER pointed out that  obviously he's all for the resolution                                                               
and added:                                                                                                                      
     This  is  exactly  the  leadership,  to  me,  that  the                                                                    
     government can show.   It doesn't cost a lot.   It sort                                                                    
     of sits up here.   It tries to bring everyone together.                                                                    
     This  is wonderful.   This  is exactly  what government                                                                    
     ought to do.                                                                                                               
     But the bottom  line is, none of us is  really going to                                                                    
     be  so impressed  with a  piece of  wire that's  in the                                                                    
     ground.  What we're going  to be impressed with is what                                                                    
     people  can  do  with  that.     We're  really,  really                                                                    
     impressed  with expansions  in economies  and jobs  and                                                                    
     health  care  and so  on.    And, quite  frankly,  most                                                                    
     people  don't know  how their  refrigerator works,  but                                                                    
     ... they  don't want  to live without  one.   They want                                                                    
     the benefits of the technology.                                                                                            
MR. OHLER noted that the  infrastructure and bandwidth must be in                                                               
place first, and closed by  highlighting the need to get Alaskans                                                               
to use it for their own benefit.                                                                                                
Number 0850                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  HEINZE  referred  to  a   document  in  committee  packets                                                               
relating to  the Centers of  Excellence in Rural  America (CERA).                                                               
She asked Mr. Ohler whether he has looked into CERA.                                                                            
MR. OHLER answered  no, although he knew something about  it.  He                                                               
explained  that  his  focus  is  on  the  need  to  "move  beyond                                                               
centers."  For  example, a person who  must walk a mile  to use a                                                               
car probably  won't do so.   Commenting that  "it's got to  be as                                                               
ubiquitous as your  cell phone," he said there  are small, remote                                                               
communities  that have  gone  wireless where  a  person can  walk                                                               
around  with  a laptop  computer  and  use  it  in a  field,  for                                                               
CHAIR  HEINZE asked  whether  Mr.  Ohler doesn't  see  CERA as  a                                                               
model, then.                                                                                                                    
MR. OHLER offered to look at the document and said:                                                                             
     I know the  model of the center, which is  great.  They                                                                    
     are wonderful.  It may be  where people go to get their                                                                    
     training so  they know what to  do with it.   It's just                                                                    
     as  a standalone,  people need  it  infused into  their                                                                    
     lives the way  the phone is.  So I'm  going to say it's                                                                    
     a  great model  for certain  aspects  of it.   But  the                                                                    
     bottom line and  the goal that you're  pursuing is, you                                                                    
     want people  to be fully  brought in to ...  mobile use                                                                    
     of digital communication and Internet technology.                                                                          
Number 0748                                                                                                                     
CHAIR HEINZE  paraphrased from the  document, saying  the concept                                                               
of  CERA "builds  on  the  roots of  small  towns  and ...  their                                                               
independence but  mutual support for  the common good."   It's an                                                               
effort  to  test [the  hypothesis]  that  creating a  network  of                                                               
small,    rural    towns   deploying    affordable,    high-speed                                                               
telecommunications  services   will  result  in   "increased  job                                                               
creation  and/or  income  in those  towns  while  also  improving                                                               
education,  health   care,  and  governmental  services."     She                                                               
remarked that  she found that  interesting.  She also  noted that                                                               
at the  bottom of the page  it says CERA is  looking for partners                                                               
and  corporate   sponsors  that  are  willing   to  help  design,                                                               
implement, and evaluate the emerging CERA.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA  pointed out that it's  dated October 2000.                                                               
She suggested the need to look at what has happened since then.                                                                 
CHAIR HEINZE asked Mr. Ohler whether he'd be following up.                                                                      
MR. OHLER replied in the affirmative.                                                                                           
CHAIR HEINZE  remarked that  the governor  might not  provide the                                                               
headlines,   but   asked  about   the   Speaker   of  the   House                                                               
[Representative Kott, sponsor of HCR 32].                                                                                       
MR. OHLER said it happened  last year, and thanked Representative                                                               
Kott for that.   He emphasized the desire to get  it on the front                                                               
page of the Anchorage newspaper  and reiterated, "If I have that,                                                               
I can then go and get my own money to do these things."                                                                         
Number 0620                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING  thanked Mr. Ohler for  his enthusiasm and                                                               
said he'd  like to have him  play an active role  in facilitating                                                               
this.  He requested more information on Mr. Ohler's credentials.                                                                
MR.  OHLER replied  that  he  is "what  they  call a  president's                                                               
professor   at   the   University  of   Alaska   in   educational                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  KOHRING  remarked  that   he  looked  forward  to                                                               
receiving information about  what Ireland has done  to create its                                                               
boom  that Alaska  could  use.   He added  that  when this  [task                                                               
force] is created,  he'd like to see Mr. Ohler  considered as one                                                               
of the members.                                                                                                                 
MR.  OHLER provided  further  information  on Ireland,  reporting                                                               
that in  Dublin, Guinness  provided a city  block of  old brewery                                                               
buildings that  was turned into  the digital-media hub.   He said                                                               
he'd  spent a  day touring  it, and  it's quite  remarkable.   He                                                               
expressed  hope that  following his  visit, they  are making  the                                                               
connection between education and what they're doing there.                                                                      
Number 0482                                                                                                                     
CHAIR HEINZE  asked whether anyone  else wished to testify.   She                                                               
then closed public testimony.                                                                                                   
Number 0469                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  KOHRING moved  to  report CSHCR  32, Version  23-                                                               
LS1717\I,  Kurtz,  3/2/04 [as  amended],  out  of committee  with                                                               
individual  recommendations and  the  accompanying fiscal  notes.                                                               
There being  no objection,  CSHCR 32(EDT)  was reported  from the                                                               
House  Special Committee  on Economic  Development, International                                                               
Trade and Tourism.                                                                                                              

Document Name Date/Time Subjects