Martha Jane King, state representative for Kentucky, knew it was critical for legislators to understand technology—so last year, she created a committee for that purpose. The goal of the House Special Committee on Advanced Communications and Information is to focus on issues of technology in the state of Kentucky.
"If we have a committee that understands the language of technology—IT, communications, broadband—we can move the commonwealth forward quicker," said King. "A lot of times, the issues when it comes to technology can get down in the weeds pretty quickly."
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It really helps if legislators have a broad basis of understanding, before they make rules to regulate it. "I want to vet people to make sure they do have that knowledge, and not just pull from the ranks. In your general assembly, on your banking and insurance committee, you have people who understand banking and insurance. The same should hold true for issues of technology."
She gave the example of a recent bill, which dealt with fees coming from cell phones, and the need for additional money to support it because people weren't using landlines—which is where the funding for 911 dispatches traditionally came from.
It's important that legislators understood exactly what was involved, from a technological perspective.
"The legislation encourages transparency, incentivizes consolidation of public safety answering points (PSAPs), establishes the Kentucky 911 Services Board, requires Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers to collect locally-imposed 911 fees, and requires prepaid providers to pay 911 fees equivalent to postpaid wireless fees," said King.
It's critical for government to keep up with technology, King said, and even can have implications on our safety.
"When I call 911, I want you to be there," said King. "It appalls me that Domino's pizza knows where I am, can deliver a pizza to my house, but if I call my local 911 dispatch, they might not have the equipment they need to find out where I am."
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Hope Reese has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Hope Reese is a journalist in Louisville, KY. Her writing has been featured in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, Playboy, Undark Magazine, VICE, Vox, and other publications.