The phones are quiet, the ads for simple things like cars and toothpaste are back on television, and the Washington, D.C. metro area is running a little slower and a little later this morning—given a population base that views election cycles as comparable to the World Series.
It becomes difficult not to get caught up in the fever particularly during the politically charged times we are living through now. I always enter the political cycle with a basket of wishes; candidates who I personally know and respect, those members of Congress who are significant supporters of rural broadband and the companies who build those networks back in their states and districts, those candidates who can show through their messaging that they just might have what it takes to make Washington functional, those with terrific ads (just being honest about that!), and even those local candidates like the independent candidate running for the Arlington County Board who happens to be my neighbor. Each election night, I settle in early in front of the television in our family room with a bowl of popcorn and a pile of work in my lap to review and make an evening (and early morning) out of it. Don leaves me to it, wandering through with random commentary while I exchange text messages with my daughters and friends across the country throughout the evening. Given my “no spring chicken” status, I now set a time for myself to shut it down —regardless of the outcomes—so that I can at least make it through the following day thinking clearly. Last night was no exception.
Next Tuesday, our NTCA Government Affairs team will be hosting a webcast on the election results and what they mean for the issues we care so deeply about. NTCA members can register here and I encourage folks to listen in to their analysis. Thanks to the Rural Broadband PAC, NTCA was active in hundreds of races and spent over $400,000 on these races—really allowing our voices to be at the table with these candidates as they pondered the issues and the implications for the people they serve, or hope to serve.
With a divided Congress, I remain hopeful that both sides of the aisle and both legislative bodies will now turn to some of the things they can actually work on together to help bridge the divide that is facing our country. At the top of that list? Infrastructure! Both parties seem to agree there is much work to be done as a nation to repair our roads and bridges. I would add that investments need to be made in our broadband efforts if we are really committed to finding a way to create access for all Americans. There were certainly some efforts over the course of the past year focused through USDA/RUS in both a pilot program (rules still to be released) and in the Farm Bill efforts (negotiations still to be completed) but we have long contended that the fastest, easiest way to support network deployment in rural, high-cost, and difficult to reach areas is through the existing High-Cost Universal Service Fund (USF). A program that has been reformed, finely tuned, and basically lacks sufficient support to get the job done. As our team likes to say, it’s like a fine automobile that has been built but there’s not enough gas in the tank. Let’s put some more gas in that tank and see how far we can drive! I am certain that we can help providers make a business case to reach deeper into their service territories with more robust technology with sufficient and predictable support in the tank.
A lot to think about but I think folks in Washington simply want to take another day to catch up on their sleep. I however would like to note how excited we are to see someone like Dusty Johnson, a consultant with Vantage Point in South Dakota, cruise to an easy victory for the lone South Dakota congressional seat. We certainly welcome Dusty—and his wit and intellect—to Washington. We are also sorry that Rep. David Young of Iowa, a single-handed champion of our call completion legislation in the House of Representatives that was signed into law earlier this year, will not be returning for another term.
The ups and downs of elections are also what keep us on our toes as we prepare (literally today) to start building relationships with the new crop of folks coming to town so we can explain to them how important broadband is to the communities they now represent.