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KPU Telecommunications - more discussion is needed
by Rick Grams


January 19, 2005

First of all, for those who know me thank you for your kind comments regarding KPU Telecommunications.  I've even received a few phone calls of agreement (which is a first).  KPU Telecommunications is certainly a subject that deserves more discussion in this open forum, and I must admit I never thought about it until I read the June Allen column on ACS.

This is an important topic to discuss.  If we think about how the telegraph and then the phone shaped our country and the world we can use that as a historical trend about the advancement of technology.  Government entities of one kind or another always seem to start a basic concept.  Nothing wrong with that ­ according to the ACS article by June Allen that is exactly how the state of Alaska became the recipient of a communications infrastructure.  However, it is always private enterprise that creates a new tool that relies on a basic tool.

As an example of how private enterprise built on telecommunications infrastructure, we can look at the fax machine.  "For many years, facsimile machines remained cumbersome, expensive and difficult to operate, but in 1966 Xerox introduced the Magnafax Telecopier, a smaller, 46-pound (17 kg) facsimile machine that was easier to use and could be connected to any telephone line. Using this machine, a letter-sized document took about six minutes to transmit. The process was slow, but it represented a major technological step. In the late 1970s, Japanese companies entered the market, and soon a new generation of faster, smaller and more efficient fax machines became available." The entire history can be read here

 The discussion of the KPU Telecommunications division is one of importance, for exactly the reasons that Mr. Hoff mentions in his most recent post.  Some time in the past, the city council authorized a reduction of fees and a free month?  Wow ­ I'll bet that means they have the power to do exactly the opposite as well.  Thank you for pointing that out Mr. Hoff.  I for one do not think a government body should have that kind of financial authority over its citizens.  To reiterate what I said, the authority of rate structures in an entity authorized to run as a business should fall to the responsibility of a qualified board of directors for that business.  These should be people who are familiar with technological advances and business practices on a national and global level excluding the political process of the body elected to manage local government.  Just because a person is elected does not mean they are qualified to make decisions at the practical/application level.  Elected officials are the people who provide vision and support.  American society is considered a free society due in large part to the importance we place on our elected positions, but if the power becomes to widely cast then it becomes something similar to socialism with a term limit.

Telecommunications today is not just a local issue.  Telecommunications is a Global issue.  To be truthful, America is behind in technology with Ketchikan lagging behind America.  Yes, I think a statewide player in the telecommunications market could bring Ketchikan better service.  This is not a service that would have to be recreated (as KPU is doing with tax payer's $) but simply expanded by a bigger entity.  As a side not and for the record, I am also against the fact that KPU will be bringing pornographic channels (with taxpayer's $) into the community with the new digital television service in the near future.  That decision was apparently "forced" upon KPU by the outside entity they chose to do business with ­ who's calling the shots there?  Certainly not the Ketchikan taxpayer.

There is no one really pushing the sale of anything but there are people asking for a comparison by an independent third party.  City Council Member Marty West posted a quick comment announcing that if a "reasonable offer" to buy KPU telecommunications was presented, then the decision would be presented to the voters.  I wonder what a reasonable offer is?

Rick Grams
Ketchikan, AK - USA



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