Industry Telephone Vice President Testifies Before House Energy and Commerce SubcommitteeNovember 9, 2005, Arlington, Va. - On behalf of the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA), Delbert Wilson, general manager of Industry Telephone Company in Industry, Texas, testified today before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet on the committee`s draft legislation establishing a statutory framework for Internet protocol and broadband services.
Wilson`s testimony provides House lawmakers with a rural perspective on the policy provisions that must be in place to ensure the existence of a robust ubiquitous communications network for the nation.
According to Wilson`s testimony, the structural approach of the draft legislation emphasizes regulatory silos that are not fully in sync with the convergence taking place in the industry. Of particular concern to NTCA and its members is that this structural approach could ultimately undermine the nation`s long-standing commitment to the principles of Universal Service.
"Americans today uniformly rely on communications infrastructure and services to satisfy their commerce, security, and entertainment needs. Moving forward, these needs will be met via a combination of two-way voice, video and data options. Consequently, deploying advanced infrastructure that is fully capable of offering such services should become the hallmark of our national communications policy. Unfortunately, as currently crafted, we are not convinced the draft legislation … would establish such a foundation," Wilson said.
Wilson noted the need for a broad definition of communications services that includes all services, regardless of the technology used to deliver the service, or the regulatory classification of that service, and the need for a regime that regulates like services in a like matter.
"This regime must account for high cost networks and protect the integrity of the infrastructure that all of these providers equally rely upon to offer their services. This is the only way to preclude the sort of arbitrage that has already been allowed to occur under today`s regulatory classification scheme and that would surely continue under the approach envisioned by this draft," Wilson continued.
Wilson testified that while vocal advocates for rewriting the nation`s communications policies have focused on deregulation and competition as keys to maintaining America`s communications preeminence, it is a commitment to Universal Service-and mechanisms to carry it out-that is most critical to the deployment of a ubiquitous broadband capable network such as the one sought by President Bush. Wilson also testified on the integral role rural communications systems play in responding to natural disasters, citing how Universal Service support enables rural carriers to supply crucial communications services that fulfill the public safety and security needs of the nation. He noted that Cameron Communications in Sulpher, La.-whose service area was decimated by the recent hurricanes that struck the nation`s gulf coast states-has been tasked with bringing communications service to the nation`s strategic petroleum reserve, which is located within Cameron`s territory. According to the testimony, Cameron is also responsible for providing communications services to the National Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Red Cross and other relief organizations in the area.
"Cameron`s challenges are significant," Wilson testified. "Yet thanks to Universal Service support, they are not insurmountable…With nearly all its business and residential revenue base temporarily wiped out, the Universal Service support it receives is sustaining this system during this time of extreme need."
Wilson concluded his testimony by imploring the committee to remain cognizant of the specific areas that are critical to rural carriers and the millions of consumers they serve, noting that doing so will foster an environment that will sustain the nation`s commitment to ensuring all Americans have access to comparable affordable communications services now and in the future.
The National Telecommunications Cooperative Association is the premier association representing more than 560 locally owned and controlled telecommunications cooperatives and commercial companies throughout rural and small-town America. NTCA provides its members with legislative, regulatory and industry representation; meetings; publications and educational programs; and an array of employee benefit programs. Visit us at www.ntca.org.