Everyone Has Their John McCain Story

Everyone Has Their John McCain Story

…and I have mine as well. It was (literally) decades ago when everyone in DC’s telecommunications circles was working on crafting what became the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Sen. McCain was a member of the prestigious Senate Commerce Committee and a key player on the majority team as the legislation was crafted over a series of years. Per his usual operation, he forged his own path through the negotiations and discussions including proposing a phone voucher program–a creative idea but one most unlikely to support building networks in low density areas. My moment of truth came when I was “summoned” to Sen. McCain’s office where I walked in to find Chairman Pressler (SD), Sens. Burns (Montana), Stevens (Alaska). Their mission was to ask us to stop putting so much pressure on the Chairman with his rural constituency regarding USF, COLR obligations and interconnection requirements. As they were all from rural states, I implored them to understand the implication for the rural citizens they represented, especially if things went south in the negotiations with the “less rural friendly” members of Congress. Sen. McCain responded that folks in Arizona lived in Tucson or Phoenix, so his state was really not rural. My heart was in my mouth as I pointed out all the telcos that we represented in Arizona and how disappointed they would be to hear that he viewed Arizona as an urban state.

Ultimately, Sen. McCain voted against the Telecom Act anyway based on regulation/deregulating philosophy.

However, there was another opportunity to appeal to him on behalf of his state and those he served.

While the Telecommunications Act was powerful in codifying Universal Service, there was an issue on how the provisions of the Act might apply to tribal lands given tribal authority instead of other government bodies when it came to carrier designation that made the tribal carriers eligible for USF support. We worked closely with the tribal authorities in South Dakota and Arizona and I made a few visits with the Governor of the Gila River Tribal Authority from Arizona to personally speak with Sen. McCain. While he did not like or vote for the legislation itself, he was a thoughtful legislator and was loath to see a flawed measure implemented. He backed what might have been the only technical correction made to the Act itself. His strong sense of right and wrong was always evident and frankly, I enjoyed my work with him far more on the technical correction aspect of the legislation because he was a force to be reckoned with whether a friend or foe!

As with all of Washington, I will miss a true leader, independent thinker and man of the highest integrity. All traits needed greatly during challenging times. I am attaching below a message from his family and pondering using my Friday to see if I can wait hours in line at the U.S. Capitol to pay a well-deserved tribute to him.

One of John’s true honors in life was working to make our nation a safer and stronger place, and in doing so, being able to interact with people all over the country and the world.

Although our hearts are incredibly heavy, they are also filled with love and warmth. Please know we will forever be grateful for your friendship and support.

John would not want us to be sad. He would want us to continue his work of serving causes greater than our own self-interest. We hope you will go forward and do just that.

Over the next few days, we will hold memorial services and remembrances for John. You can learn more by clicking here. You can also share your remembrances of John on this website as well.

Thank you for being there for John, and for our entire family. We are truly appreciative.

Sincerely,

The McCain Family

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