What a great group and a terrific advocacy adventure! Fifteen very cool, very accomplished women in the rural broadband industry traveled to Washington DC yesterday to interact with and support female policymakers. From Colorado to South Dakota, from Wisconsin to Kentucky – some of our fabulous RLEC leadership traveled in to help me host a few political events and to talk about the need to right-size the universal service fund to support sufficient broadband deployment.
We started off the day meeting with Senator Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota who expressed great concern with the proposed elimination of the Rural Development Undersecretary position at USDA. As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, she is certainly “in the know” and has her own litmus test for rural development – millennials won’t move anyplace where they can’t stream Netflix. Well, you can’t stream Netflix if you don’t have broadband! She shared with our women that rural broadband is one of the hottest topics in town these days and the timing was perfect to continue to share the perspective from the folks who actually are in the field providing the services that everyone is talking about. As an aside, I did find it a tad ironic that the House Democrats released a plan this week on their infrastructure proposal where they noted they (in a perfect, fully funded world), would designate $40 billion to broadband deployment – which shows a great sense of priorities but I think NTCA could have been in a perfect place to help consult on how they allocated the funding and we’ll continue to work with them on how networks are actually built and maintained.
We then hosted a lunch for Senate Commerce Committee member, Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota. The Senator has been a champion for rural communications consumers and really feels passionately about the power of broadband for rural Americans and recently helped spearhead the latest letter to the FCC on the sufficiency of USF funding. The Senator was stunned and delighted that so many women executives flew in for the event and we all enjoyed our time together before she ran off for a vote.
We ended the day with a tea that we hosted for Senator Deb Fischer from Nebraska, another Senate Commerce Committee leader and supporter of finding ways to build rural networks. The Senator spent time chatting with everyone for a few minutes and shared her perspective on Commerce Committee activities before scooting off for a flight back to her state.