I’ve spent the past 36 years in D.C. and have seen many things…but nothing like this most recent, record-setting government shutdown. I’m usually optimistic about rifts being resolved and I pity the government employees who are used as ping-pong balls in the process. This has been a different process and much harder to figure out.
Regardless of your politics and perspective, you’re being impacted. If you’re a rural broadband provider you’re seeing the inability, on the advocacy front, to have discussions with the FCC on several key issues that are moving from “important” to “crisis mode” with rate floor and performance testing topping that list. Then, following close behind are issues impacting USF Order implementation, CAF 2 auction, intercarrier compensation and interconnection, and EBS spectrum. Rate floor is an issue that should have been resolved early this year and this 35-day delay has put carriers behind the needed time frame if state action and notice are required, and if not dealt with quickly, will have huge implications and costs for rural consumers. Thankfully, Congress is still in session and we have been working with key hill offices on the urgency of the situation. Fingers and toes crossed that we can get this teed up ASAP when the doors open again…hopefully imminently.
The shutdown has also limited our ability to talk to the folks at RUS on ReConnect and the initial implementation of the Farm Bill—key items that will likely need time frame revisions as well.
Then there is the personal side as we all realize how required services that we don’t even think about are impacted. I have flown out to visit with our Alaska members at their statewide meeting and while I didn’t face any TSA issues (other than feeling miserably sorry for the TSA agents working without pay at 6 a.m., and then googling to find out if I was allowed to give them a gift card for groceries or other necessities (which you are not by the way!)). However, today’s news that flight safety is at risk was concerning given my return flight in a few days. Then there’s also food safety, IRS services, and the need to set up food banks in cities across the country to help our public servants. I am certainly hopeful that this shutdown does not have a long-term impact on our government’s ability to recruit top personnel in the future.
*On a follow-up note, I am delighted to hear that we now have a 3-week window to ensure government operations get back up and running! Whew!