September 20, 2010 - Monday at Fall Conference: Policy and New Perspectives

Photo: Harry ThomasNTCA’s Fall Conference officially begun Monday morning with the opening general session, during which NTCA President Harry Thomas (Venture Communications Cooperative, Highmoore, S.D.) formally called the meeting to Photo: Pat Holt Singersorder and introduced the day’s program.

Just before the general session attendees enjoyed a "sentimental journey" as the charming Pat Holt singers serenaded the crowd with World War II era music. The group’s finale honored vets from all the armed services and veterans in the audience stood and cheered when their service anthem was played. The audience also saw a video previewing the location of next year’s Fall Conference in Seattle.

Photo: Shirley BloomfieldNTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield delivered an address in which she laid out her vision for moving NTCA forward on the advocacy front, and highlighted the association’s renewed commitment to customer service. She also pointed to several initiatives NTCA has undertaken to work with a more broad array of organizations—both inside and outside of the telecom industry—to spread the message about the importance of broadband for rural communities, and about the critical role small rural telcos play in deploying broadband-capable networks throughout rural America.

Photo: Jonathan AdelsteinFollowing Bloomfield’s address, RUS Administrator Jonathan Adelstein spoke about how his office is working to help educate policy-makers about the unique circumstances of rural providers, so that the national broadband plan truly works for all stakeholders. He praised the efforts of rural telcos and assured the audience that while some policy-makers may view ongoing funding support as no longer necessary, because of the great job small telcos have done in bringing advanced services to rural America, that is not the case. He spoke about the broadband stimulus awards and touched on the importance of cooperation between rural electric and telecom coops in bringing broadband and smart grid solutions to rural communities.

Next, Michael Rogers, MSNBC’s “Practical Futurist,” explored what the next several years will look like from a technology perspective. He discussed what he called the “virtualization of America,” citing several examples of tasks being done now—and that will be done in the Photo: Michael Rogersfuture—in the “cloud.” He said how we connect to the Internet (stressing wireless broadband as the probable method), standards in connectivity (so that all devices and software work with each other) and the next generation—the Millenials—( who are learning to balance the virtual world with the real world, since so much of their daily life is“online”) are all important to creating this virtualization of America. Following Rogers was Gary Thayer, Chief Macro Strategist of Wells Fargo Advisors. Thayer shared his perspective on the economy and stock market, noting that while investors are still somewhat conservative as the country emerges from recent tough economic times, it appears the nation is on the road to recovery.

The National Broadband Plan Panel

Photo: Panel membersClosing out the general session was a panel on the national broadband plan (NBP), hosted by NTCA Senior Vice President for Policy Mike Romano. NTCA’s Vice President of Government Affairs Tom Wacker was joined on the panel by Derrick Owens, WTA Director of Government Affairs, Colin Sandy,Photo: Panel members NECA Government Relations Counsel and Randy Tyree, OPASTCO Vice President of Legislative Policy. The group discussed how members can get involved in the associations’ joint efforts to alter the plan to prevent unintended negative consequences for rural providers and the communities they serve. They discussed what the upcoming elections might mean for telecom policy-making on the Hill, and outlined the issues they are focusing on in their policy-maker visits, including the importance of Rate-of-Return regulation in encouraging future broadband deployment.

Later in the afternoon, NTCA’s Government Affairs, Industry, and Wireless Committees held a joint session to discuss the latest NBP developments in more detail. Bloomfield addressed the committees and shared more about her vision for how NTCA’s new Policy DivisionPhoto: Joint committee meeting in progress would be working to advocate the rural agenda and share a consistent message across the many policy-making and public arenas. The Business & Technology and Awards Committees also met Monday afternoon. Attendees enjoyedPhoto: Committee Meeting in Progress a number of other opportunities to gain a more thorough understanding of current issues facing the rural telecom sector in a variety of concurrent sessions on topics including effective grant writing, the evolving wireless world, possibilities of telephone service and the "death of long distance."

St. Louis Science Center Hosts FRS EvenFRS event photost

The St. Louis Science Center provided the setting for every curious mind…with hands on exhibits and a delightful IMAX movie, there was a little bit of everything for attendees. The event featured great food and access to all of the exhibits. Kids enjoyed playing with blocks and puzzles. The night closed with cupcakes and a night of stars in the James S. McDonnell Planetarium. Over 350 people supported the Foundation for Rural Service by attending the event. 



Tuesday’s agenda features several more educational sessions as well as the popular “round tables” during which peers engage in discussion on a variety of topics.