Next week is NTCA’s annual pilgrimage up to Capitol Hill and a prime opportunity to share their stories of how they are continuing their broadband builds in the rural parts of our country. I know some folks are bummed that Congress will be on recess that week but honestly, it’s a wonderful opportunity to spend even more time with the key congressional staffers from the offices of these elected officials and to dig a little bit deeper into the issues without the pressures that these staffers are typically under. Additionally, every once in awhile it’s nice to be able to do these meetings and also extend a “thank you” – which is well deserved after hundreds of Members of Congress weighed in over the past 2 years on the need for additional USF support and certainty for rural providers. Perfect timing after the FCC’s December Order on USF was unanimously adopted.
But the programming we are able to put together for folks is just as critical as we create the platform for our membership to hear from key stakeholders and policy drivers in the rural broadband space during our Monday briefing opportunity.
This year – we have FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly graciously agreeing to come over so that he and I can have a chat about where things have been for our industry and where they might be heading. Commissioner Brendan Carr will be doing the same and our attendees will benefit greatly from hearing from these two key policymakers. What are the next steps on USF? Rate floor? Performance testing? Mapping? All topics are on the table!
And while there had been a bit of musical chairs over at USDA, the newest acting RUS Administrator Chad Rupe, former RD director for Wyoming, will get his introduction to the NTCA membership and hopefully insight into how important the USDA programs and access to financing are for rural broadband folks. A discussion on mapping with experts, some very key congressional staffers sharing what they see in their crystal ball, one of the House Rural Broadband Caucus co-chairs, Congressman Rob Wittman from Virginia sharing his insights over breakfast and USDA workshops on the new REConnect program all round out the listening part of the experience…..and then come the comfy shoes and the opportunity to hit the Hill!
While the cherry blossoms might still have some vestiges remaining, rural broadband issues continue to be “hot” and timely topics and I am looking forward to our members taking their stories – of challenges, opportunities and successes – to Capitol Hill.