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There are times when regulatory oversight is necessary and when the government providing private enterprises guidance is needed.

We appreciate that state Rep. Joe Hamm, R-Hepburn Township, and several of his Republican colleagues recognize that correcting some unacceptable behavior by some in the telecommunications industry is one example of that necessity.

Hamm is introducing legislation that requires a greater level of communication and accountability between the industry, county emergency management coordinators and the state Utilities Commission when power outages take down 911 landlines.

Emergency dispatch is a vital public service that relies on aspects of infrastructure that are owned and managed by private enterprises. When lives are at stake, regulation to ensure that the private enterprises are keeping public servants aware of obstacles and challenges are more than acceptable — they are essential.

One companion bill holds telecommunications providers financially liable if they fail to maintain backup infrastructure for keeping 911 in operation. Other legislation sponsored by Hamm’s colleagues would require faster repairs when crashes down lines across roadways, among other improvements.

At a state Utilities Commission hearing, “we heard about volunteer firefighters spending over 12 hours directing traffic while waiting” for a telecommunications company to remove its lines from the roadway, state Rep. Clint Owlett, R-Liberty, said, according to a news release reported on in Wednesday’s edition of the Sun-Gazette. “This is unconscionable.”

As noted by Owlett, the proposals stem from feedback by the lawmakers’ constituents and Pennsylvania taxpayers, conducted openly at hearings in the Northern Tier.

Much of this legislation deals directly with the abilities of first responders to answer emergency calls and where those vital public services overlap with the telecommunications industry. All of this legislation was developed after lawmakers and other public servants listened to the public, in an open forum that brought governance from Harrisburg into some of the most impacted communities.

This package of legislation is a model for what the government can and should do, and we hope all members of our state House, Senate and governor’s cabinet are paying attention to this thoughtful, important approach.

–Williamsport Sun-Gazette

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