On January 2nd the new Congress was sworn in for their new terms and away we go. This picture was taken from one of the many swearing-in parties myself and our team attended over the week as we welcomed back old friends and introduced ourselves to the new players who are flooding Washington, D.C. (Of course, the irony that this particular picture was taken from atop the new Spy Museum which is not yet opened to the public, was not lost on me.)
The 116th Congress will be an interesting one. The GOP has expanded their majority in the Senate and lost their hold on the House of Representatives with the Democrats taking a roughly 30-seat majority. This shows a potential urban-rural divide in the results and yet this election also exemplified why it is critical to work with both sides of the aisle given the swings in control and the fact that the more robust broadband deployment is in our country, the better off everyone will be.
NTCA and our members are already assessing the priorities of the new committee leadership as well as legislative topics certain to be high on the agenda—including possible infrastructure spending—and particularly focused on sharing the perspective of rural broadband providers with the folks new to Capitol Hill. As folks in the industry know, the issues are complex, and it will take the right members of Congress who have the patience to learn the importance of Universal Service, or how wireless service needs a wired backbone to actually work! That will make our L&P conference this April incredibly important and the right time for our members to share their story of innovation and investment in rural America.
It will be good to have old friends stay engaged in these issues like Senator John Thune (R-SD) who will step back from being Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee but will step in to the Senate leadership and still retain a seat on the committee. It will also be a time to work with new faces in Congress like newly-elected Congressman Pete Stauber from Minnesota, whose team reached out as soon as we sent out a congratulatory letter asking to meet because “rural broadband is so critical to the district we serve.” Our work is certainly cut out for us…and frankly, right now Congress is (literally) the only game in town!