Every quarter or so, Mike Romano, NTCA’s Sr. Vice President of Industry Affairs and Business Development and I share our latest thoughts and perspectives in a webcast titled “Policy Talk.” The purpose of the webcast is to give NTCA members the scoop on what is happening on the public policy front. I love the tool because it gives us the chance to walk through the most current and pressing issues and it give members the opportunity to ask questions of their own in real time. It’s also a nice change of pace from using more traditional methods for keeping in touch on public policy—like reading memos—and is simply another way to ensure that we make the time and effort to keep the dialogue going with our providers who are in the field and see these challenges firsthand.
Today’s “Policy Talk” was a tad more exciting than usual because as soon as we sat down to begin to talk with well over 100 NTCA members who dialed in to the webcast, the building’s fire alarms starting ringing. I am certain that those on the line were wondering what in the world they had dialed in to and Mike and I sat in front of the camera just long enough (after being somewhat incredulous at the timing!) to realize that it might actually be a real alert. With so much construction in our neighborhood and in our building, anything was possible at this point. Figuring that “going down with the ship” wasn’t going to help anyone, I slipped off my high heels (Mike left his shoes on), and we trudged our way down the 10 flights of stairs to our staff meet-up location. While laughing as I stood on the sidewalk with our team, I received a missive from one of our members who had logged in to the webcast only to hear the blaring with a subject line of “Wow! You must have had some hot topics for us today!” Thankfully, the alert was called off quickly and we ran (literally) back into the building and appreciated the fortitude of nearly all the members who stayed on waiting to hear with “bated” breath where things stand in the crazy world of Washington, D.C. And indeed…things are hot!
As a quick recap, as we approach the midterm elections and our country is mired in a deeply partisan divide, the silver lining is that we get to talk about communications policy issues that seem to (mostly) transcend politics and partisanship. There is certainly no shortage of conversations about rural broadband these days or proposals to solve it. If anything, the hardest part has been that there are almost too many ideas out there and making sure all of the proposals out there to overcome rural broadband challenges are coordinated and complement one another is likely the bigger challenge.
We continue to see the FCC work toward tackling broadband and rural issues at a record pace. Of particular importance has been the USF Order back in March providing some near-term USF relief worth more than a half billion dollars, a contributions forbearance order over the summer worth $50 million or more a year to carriers, the moves the FCC has made on implementing rural call completion rules, their efforts to make it easier to offer business data services later this month, and most importantly, the FCC has committed to making longer-term USF fixes by year end. Meanwhile, the administration, Congress, and other agencies continue to toss around ideas on how to drive broadband deployment—with most of the activity centering around RUS programs. But there is certainly more to do….
Rate floor, performance testing, CAF II, ICC, cybersecurity, video, wireless, the Farm Bill…and the list goes on.
I’m looking forward to the next opportunity we have to chat with our members on the public policy front being a little bit less exciting.