A new study commissioned by Wired Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Technology Council suggests Wisconsin’s current telecommunications regulations are hampering investment, economic development and the deployment of new technologies in the state.

The study examined the impact of state legislation – which passed in 1994 and has not been updated since – on the telecommunications industry and consumers. Because the law requires resources be spent on old copper line technologies that consumers no longer desire, Wisconsin continues to miss out on investment dollars and jobs, while consumers miss out on the newest technologies.

Updating telecom rules would create or save an estimated 50,748 jobs across Wisconsin, and have an economic impact of $2.6 billion – all at no cost to the state.

“In these tough economic times, Wisconsin needs to focus on making our state more competitive for jobs and investment in new infrastructure, particularly when it comes to new and emerging technologies,” said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. “This study demonstrates that the benefits of updated regulations for workers and the state as a whole are significant.

“Just as important, consumers would still have a high level of protection, and the increased competition from updated rules would allow Wisconsin residents to have more choices for telecom services,” Still said. “As our Tech Council ‘white papers’ have repeatedly suggested, we should leap at this opportunity.”

The study suggests that by modernizing telecommunications regulations to stop incentivizing old technologies, Wisconsin can encourage investment in newer technologies, such wireless and broadband. Legislation to do so was introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature during the last legislative session, but failed to pass before the session came to a close.

The study notes that other Midwestern states, including Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio, have all updated their telecommunications statutes within the past few years. Indiana, which passed its legislation in 2006, has seen thousands of new jobs, nearly $1.5 billion in new telecommunication infrastructure, and expanded high-speed Internet service to more than 100 additional rural communities, according to state Rep. Eric Koch, one of the bill’s co-authors.

Wisconsin Gov.-elect Scott Walker has suggested he is open to new telecom legislation, saying his administration “will seek to update telecommunications laws to encourage competition and lower prices” here in Wisconsin.

“While other states are already beginning to see the economic benefits of modernized telecom rules, Wisconsin continues to be left behind,” said Thad Nation, executive director of Wired Wisconsin. “If our state is to create the 21st century jobs and infrastructure we need to succeed in the modern economy, we can’t afford to have a regulatory system that pre-dates Windows 95.”

“With a new legislature comes new opportunity, and I urge state lawmakers to update our telecom rules as soon as possible next year,” Nation said.

Wired Wisconsin is the Wisconsin-based project of Midwest Consumers for Choice and Competition, a non-profit organization of individual consumers interested in technology, broadband, and telecommunication issues with state projects throughout the Midwest region. For more information, visit www.wiredwisconsin.org.