News from the ITA

February 15, 2019


Legislative Update

The Illinois House of Representatives was in session this week. The Illinois Senate was not scheduled to meet this week. The House was focused primarily on legislation passed by the Senate last week to increase the minimum wage in Illinois. The legislation passed the House 69-47 on a partisan vote with most Democrats in favor and Republicans opposing the measure. Governor Pritzker is expected to sign the legislation, SB 1, next week.

Senate Bill 1 would phase in an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. It calls for a $1 hourly pay hike at the beginning of next year, followed by a 75-cent increase to $10 on July 1, 2020. The minimum wage then would increase by $1 per hour each year on Jan. 1 until it hits $15 per hour in 2025. The proposal would preserve the way restaurants and other employers with tipped workers count gratuities toward employees’ wages. It proposes a tax credit for employers with 50 or fewer full-time employees to offset some of the cost of the increased wages. Employers would be able to claim a tax credit for 25 percent of the cost in 2020. The credit would scale back annually until it is phased out completely. Businesses would be able to continue paying a lower wage to workers younger than 18 if they work fewer than 650 hours in a year. The minimum wage for younger employees — currently $7.75 per hour — would increase to $8 on Jan. 1 and peak at $13 per hour in 2025. 

The House and Senate are both scheduled to return to Springfield for session next week. House Bill 1582, which would establish Illinois specific net neutrality regulations for any company that contracts to do business with the state, is posted for a hearing in the House Cybersecurity, Data Analytics & IT Committee Thursday, February 21. Rep. Ann Williams has not indicated if she intends to present the legislation in committee next week.

Governor Pritzker is scheduled to deliver his budget address to the General Assembly next Wednesday, February 20.

Today is the deadline for legislators to introduce legislation. More than 3,500 bills have already been introduced in the House and nearly 2,000 bills have been introduced in the Senate. We are reviewing the bills as they are filed and the ITA website will be updated with all the legislation introduced this year affecting the telecommunications and broadband industry.

Pritzker Releases Transition Reports

Infrastructure and Ag Reports Address Importance of Rural Broadband

Gov. JB Pritzker released 11 reports from his transition teams Friday, February 8 on topics ranging from the state budget to education, agriculture, job creation and state infrastructure needs.

The Restoring Illinois' Infrastructure report said this is "a critical moment for the future of infrastructure in our state." The report highlighted the need for Illinois to invest "in our airports, roads, waterways, and public transit to building the broadband infrastructure a 21st century economy demands."

The reports included the following in a section titled Develop foundational digital infrastructure:

"Widely available high-speed broadband is critical to attract economic development and foster digital literacy. Furthering that goal requires action in several areas. 

Enable foundational digital infrastructure

Illinois can do more to support digital infrastructure by investing in high-speed internet access in all state buildings, including public hospitals and universities. To spread the reach of broadband, Illinois should identify priority areas for broadband delivery and channel service through a designated office such as the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. In the process, the state can help telecommunications providers overcome public right-of-way regulations that make it more difficult for digital conduits to be included during road construction. 
 Furthermore, improved digital accessibility in state infrastructure—such as audible websites and accessible screen readers in state buildings—can make public spaces more inclusive. Beyond the economic and structural advantages that come from expanded digital infrastructure, these investments also increase accessibility for residents of all abilities. 
Drive adoption of digital services

Supporting digital infrastructure across Illinois should include supporting suppliers and purchasers in areas of the state that may be hard to do business. For example, the state could create a cooperative purchasing program for rural broadband providers to decrease the cost of digitization in certain regions. In addition, the state could look into provide matching infrastructure funding (in addition to the FCC grants) to cover underserved and rural areas.
Prepare infrastructure for emerging technologies

The whole world is seeing significant shifts across the digital ecosystem and Illinois must fight to keep up. The state should consider updating policies to reduce hurdles to test and build emerging technologies such as 5G internet and autonomous vehicles. Digital labs supported by public-private partnerships can test new technologies and help the state plan for future infrastructure needs."

The Growing Our Agricultural Economy transition report also touched on the need to improve rural broadband:

"Additionally, the state should find ways to expand broadband to rural residents across Illinois, prioritizing farmers, schools, and small businesses. The state should leverage existing broadband corridors and rural electric cooperative infrastructure and should consider ways to honor private property rights throughout the expansion process. The state could also convene a coalition of businesses, local governments, schools, and hospitals to determine upload and download speeds and identify gaps in access across the state."

Regulatory Update

The Illinois Commerce Commission's next scheduled Regular Open Meeting is February 21, 2019.

Thirteen (13) Southern Illinois County Emergency System Telephone Boards (ETSBs) filed a verified complaint against NG-911 Inc. this week in ICC Docket 19-0152. The 13 ETSBs obtain emergency telephone system services (“9-1-1 services”) from NG-911 Inc. pursuant to tariffs filed with the Commission. The ETSBs seek entry of an order by the Commission finding that specific charges by NG under its tariffs are improper and not rightfully assessed against the ETSBs. 

Save the Dates!!

2019 Annual Convention
June 9-11, 2019
Margaritaville Resort
Osage Beach, MO 65065

2019 Vendor Showcase
September 4-6, 2019
Embassy Suites and Conference Center
East Peoria, IL

Telecom Headlines

A.I. could widen economic disparity between urban and rural areas, Brookings report warns (Fortune)

FCC's Ajit Pai tells carriers to combat spoofed robocalls... or else (cnet)

FCC adopts legacy Universal Service Fund USF phase-out plan for CAF II auction areas (telecompetitor)

With the national broadband map under attack, eight states will help NTIA update the data (telecompetitor)

American Broadband Initiative taps multiple federal agencies to promote broadband deployment (telecompetitor)

Trump administration unveils order to prioritize and promote AI (Reuters)

Pai: 5G future is a wired one with promise for rural America (telecompetitor)

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Illinois Telecommunications Association

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