Legislature(2003 - 2004)
05/08/2004 09:04 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CS FOR HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 32(EDT) am Relating to information infrastructure and establishing the Alaska Information Infrastructure Policy Task Force. This was the first hearing for this bill in the Senate Finance Committee. Co-Chair Wilken stated that this bill, CS HCR 32(EDT)am, Version 23-LS1717\Q.A, is sponsored by Representative Pete Kott at the request of Economic Development International Trade and Tourism Committee. Continuing, he noted that the bill would establish as 13-member Alaska information infrastructure taskforce, which would be charged "with reviewing and analyzing current and long term information infrastructure needs." SUE STANCLIFF, Staff to Representative Pete Kott, the bill's sponsor, reiterated that this "task force would be charged with consideration of Alaska's role and interest in the long-term information structure development." She stated that the goal would be "to provide Alaska's communities with access to broadband connectivity and provide for improved access to fiber optic connectivity." These technological advances, she stated, "would help bridge the divide between rural Alaska from the benefits in technology advances realized in urban Alaska. SFC 04 # 112, Side A 10:42 AM Ms. Stancliff shared that Ireland is a "shining example" of what benefit could result from public and private partnerships dedicated to technological advancement, as it is currently the largest exporter of software products in Europe with 300 leading electronic companies and nine of the ten top pharmaceutical companies in the world. She stated that these opportunities "are not out of reach for Alaska." Ms. Stancliff stated that the distance between Alaska's communities and the gaps in the State's infrastructure are exacerbated "by federal lands, federal land laws, vast distances, and the relative newness" of the State. Furthermore, she commented that while "no paved highway may ever connect the regions of the State "to the outside world… a telecommunications superhighway can link them all." She declared that "innovation engineering concepts and robust technologies" could be implemented in the State to assist in helping "the Alaskan economy evolve into a 21st century economic powerhouse." She stressed that the proposed task force would be required to assist in determining "how State government could 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." She shared that information task forces similar to the one being proposed have been effective in assisting rural areas develop in Colorado and North Carolina and other states to address the digital divide between urban and rural areas. Ms. Stancliff informed the Committee that the task force would consist of "two government agencies, three legislators, a University of Alaska delegate, and seven at-large members who would have the vision and knowledge of the industry" with the vision "to include homeland security and missile defense, and economic development in rural Alaska." Senator Dyson voiced appreciation for the efforts being asserted in these planning efforts. He opined that the Resolution, as written, specifically denotes "fiber optic as the only solution as opposed to satellite or microwave transmission." He stated that were this the case, it would present "an unfortunate limitation" on the task force. Ms. Stancliff responded that the State's current fiber optic communication system runs from Prudhoe Bay to Fairbanks, to Anchorage, to Juneau and provides telecommunications to the outside world. She noted that one issue before the task force is to determine how to expand the infrastructure of the fiber optic network that is currently in place. She noted that wireless communication would be a related component. Senator Dyson asked, for the record, whether this Resolution would limit the horizon to just fiber optics. Ms Stancliff replied that this Resolution would "absolutely not" limit the scope of the task force to fiber optics. Amendment #1: This amendment would insert "(1) the commissioner of administration or the commissioner's designee;" into the Resolution on page two, line 17. In addition, the amendment would replace the number "seven" with the number "six" on page two, line 22 of the Resolution. The revised language would read as follows: (5) six at-large members chosen jointly by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate. Co-Chair Wilken moved to adopt Amendment #1 and objected for explanation. KEVIN JARDELL, Assistant Commissioner, Department of Administration, explained that were this amendment adopted, the Department, which currently "has the sole authority for the design and implementation of all telecommunication" in the State, would have representation on the Task Force. This representation, he noted, would allow the Department to "mesh" its planning and policy responsibilities with the other Task Force members' positions. He cautioned that omitting the Department from the task force would limit the task force's effectiveness. He noted that to really succeed with this endeavor, public and private entities, working together, would be necessary. He commented that the bill's sponsor is not opposed to the Department's participation on the task force. Ms. Stancliff affirmed that the sponsor does not object to the amendment. Co-Chair Wilken removed his objection. There being no further objection, Amendment #1 was ADOPTED. WANETTA AYERS, Representative, Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference (SWAMC) testified via teleconference from an offnet site in support of the bill, as it would benefit the SWAMC region. She noted that SWAMC would support any technology that would further telecommunication connectivity to the region. She voiced optimism that advances in this field would assist "to bridge the digital divide" and would enhance the economy of the region and the area's quality of life. Senator Dyson understood that the adoption of Amendment #1 would require concurrence from the House of Representatives. Conceptual Amendment #2: This amendment inserts the words, "and wireless" following "fiber optic" on page one, line eight of the Resolution. The revised language reads as follows: Whereas access to fiber optic and wireless connectivity will help bridge the digital divide that separates rural Alaska from the benefits of technological advances realized by urban areas; and Senator Dyson moved to adopt Conceptual Amendment #2. There being no objection, Amendment #2 was ADOPTED. Senator Dyson moved to report the bill, as amended, from Committee with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal notes. Co-Chair Green objected. Co-Chair Green voiced concern regarding the $99,500 fiscal note #3, dated March 4, 2004 from the Legislative Affairs Agency; specifically that funding for a fulltime eleven-month staff person would be required. There being no objection, Senator Dyson removed his motion to report the bill from Committee. Co-Chair Wilken ordered the bill HELD in Committee in order to address concerns regarding fiscal note #3.