Legendary Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill once famously declared that “all politics is local”. And I do believe that. Politics of any issue impact us wherever we might live and regarding whatever it is we might care deeply about. It’s one of the reasons why this past weekend, I opened my home up to fellow neighbors for a wine, cheese and chat to host a local Arlington County board candidate who happens to be an Independent (the purple candidate) who hopes that local politics can be a place where civil discourse can still occur among community members. Maybe that is why I served wine and cheese; to ensure that that civil discourse took place. Regardless, it went a long way to ensure we could talk about traffic, development and services (and that was the point of cleaning my house on a Sunday afternoon).
In that same spirit, today, nearly 30 NTCA women rural broadband executives came out to Washington, D.C., for a series of gatherings that emphasized that same spirit of caring about the state of your local communities. These executives hosted events for Senator Deb Fischer from Nebraska and Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota – two colleagues from across the political aisle who can connect on at least one important issue – access to rural broadband for those they serve. Constructive and pragmatic without political drama. Off to the FCC this group went for a meeting with Commissioner Rosenworcel to hear her perspective on being a woman in the technology industry and what industry leaders could do to lend a helping hand to others as they work through their careers. We then pivoted to how USF reform needs to ensure there is a stable foundation for rural carriers to continue to commit resources to build out and in the words of the Commissioner, find ways to celebrate not only deployments but upgrades as well. We also met with Amy Bender, senior aide to Commissioner O’Rielly and Jamie Susskind with Commissioner Carr – both amazing women who have rich backgrounds in public service and rural broadband issues and who now serve FCC Commissioners with their experience and real-world perspectives. Nice to hear policymakers recognize the value proposition of rural broadband and the challenges of providing it. USDA’s infrastructure point person, Jannine Miller, also shared some perspective with the group on the USDA’s efforts to craft the new USDA broadband pilot project program and it was music to my ears to hear Jannine share and ask for feedback on the Farm Bill, overbuilding, partnerships, how to incentivize the right type of partnerships and how the application process might work…and then actually listen to the feedback our NTCA executives gave her…refreshing!
So many other excellent parts of the day – networking, meeting with Neustar CEO Lisa Hook (a rock star in her own right and a huge fan of the industry using data analytics), some talk on personal branding and how to make use of the political capital of providing a key service to a key constituency.
All in all – a wildly successful day. The shoes are kicked off but the memories of why I love so many leaders in this industry and how I admire all they do for the folks they serve in their communities is top of mind and fresh in my perspective.