Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/08/2004 09:04 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                

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