The House Rural Broadband Caucus showed great leadership today by scheduling a discussion with the caucus, Hill staffers and Chairman Pai and Commissioner Starks from the FCC. NTCA was honored to help host the event and I was doubly honored to be asked to moderate the discussion….nothing like getting to control the microphone on a topic that is a huge part of the mission of our association.
Congressman Wittman from Virginia and the newest co-chair of the Caucus is passionate about finding ways to continue to extend broadband and his team worked with ours to organize the event. The other caucus Co-chairs – Peter Welch from Vermont, Bob Latta from Ohio, David Loebsack from Iowa, Adam Kinzinger from Illinois and Mark Pocan from Wisconsin (in spirit!), all showed up for the event kick off and opened with their own insightful remarks on what broadband deployment means for Americans in rural and underserved markets. All parties of this bipartisan group of Members of Congress have been instrumental in educating their peers and sharing insights with the FCC on critical pending matters including their leadership on securing support for the Universal Service Fund and their commitment showed by welcoming the leadership from the FCC and thanking them for making the effort to journey over from the FCC to Capitol Hill – especially during crazy Cherry Blossom season where the distance might be relatively short but the traffic significant as tourists make their way to see the pink clouds of blossoms around the Tidal Basin.
After opening remarks were made, I had the opportunity to pepper Chairman Pai and Commissioner Starks with questions. From USF to spectrum to infrastructure initiatives to mapping – the discussion was wide-ranging and productive for the full packed room of Hill staff attending. The discussion itself was off the record so that is as much as I will comment on substance other than I continue to be impressed with the level of depth and insight this body of 5 commissioners has combined as they work together to produce communications policy for our country and I am so pleased that they are focusing much of this collective brainpower right now on how to continue the expansion of broadband for rural Americans.