This week has been busy…the last few hours before sunshine rules went into effect prior to the FCC’s vote on the USF order next Wednesday. It feels like the entire industry has been counting down to this time for years…with hundreds and hundreds of congressional and FCC meetings in between.
This week I was able to have an ex parte discussion with three of the four FCC commissioners who were willing to have an ex parte discussion. In each of these conversations, I expressed support for the draft order with respect to Universal Service Fund support (USF) circulated recently for the open commission meeting next week. This gave me the opportunity to share the importance of 1) seeking to fulfill statutory mandates with respect to predictability and sufficiency, 2) promoting the effectiveness of existing USF support mechanisms, and 3) advancing important public policy objectives with respect to promoting network investment and ensuring the availability of services for the benefit of consumers on a reasonably comparable basis between rural and urban areas. The discussions were good and thoughtful and I was appreciative of the time the commissioners had for the last-minute chats. And, as fate would have it, sunshine closed down in the middle of the “Telecom Prom” or the FCBA’s Chairman’s dinner last evening.
While there is nothing quite like spending an evening with thousands of telecom attorneys, lobbyists, Capitol Hill staff, and industry people—the evening was actually a lovely one thanks to Rebekah Goodheart, former FCC staffer and now partner with Jenner & Block, who was my hostess for the gala. And Chairman Pai was actually quite funny. My favorite might have been the jab at Microsoft and their new found “passion” for rural broadband when the Chairman noted that “they simply could have purchased spectrum” instead of their current gyrations to obtain white space spectrum.
This morning, I ended the week by meeting with Rep. Rob Wittman from Virginia. He had asked for an opportunity to compare notes on broadband deployment for rural Americans and what I thought would be a 30-minute discussion became nearly an hour of comparing notes at a very detailed level (this is a policymaker who really knows his stuff!) from the incoming co-chair of the House Rural Broadband Caucus. I am really looking forward to our work together in the 116th Congress.