Tax reform might be taking up whatever oxygen is actually left on Capitol Hill but today Brian Ford and I headed over to the White House for a meeting on rural infrastructure. Traffic was light so we made it there with more than enough time to spare so after I dragged Brian for a White House selfie and coo’ed over the security dogs as we made our way through the official visitor’s entrance, that still left plenty of time to connect with colleagues from the agriculture, water, economic development, library and communications arena prior to kick off.
USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue kicked off he meeting with his efforts to ensure that rural infrastructure does not get lost in the bigger efforts ongoing for infrastructure investment and how he, the White House National Economic Advisors and the Rural Prosperity Council are all working through how to create an environment of investment and innovation for rural America. Brian and I had to exchange a few glances since every example he used on infrastructure and its impact on the rural economy seemed to be broadband oriented. He noted that rural prosperity is tied directly to broadband deployment and that there was “an obligation to get connectivity down the pig path.” That might have been one of the most colorful phrases I have heard to date when it comes to rural broadband deployment so I might just have to borrow that a few times!
Secretary Perdue and White House officials outlined their thoughts on using state and local priorities on creating a program that will float from the bottom up and not from the top down from Washington DC while highlighting the need to look at 1) incentives 2) rural infrastructure 3) transformative solutions and 4) regulatory relief. Given the focus on broadband with everyone standing at the podium, Brian and I had no shame in ensuring that we each hit the microphone during the Q&A session to press on needs and concerns NTCA members have when it comes to additional deployment challenges, including insufficient USF support.
More to follow but we’re excited about being at the table with the folks at the White House and USDA as we ensure that rural has a voice in the infrastructure commitment made during the last Presidential election.