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|Lend Your Voice
Hard to believe that 2012 is halfway over. Your NTCA team hit the ground running in January, and we haven’t paused for a moment since. This issue of the Executive Report highlights some of the association’s key accomplishments this year. As you’ll see, the FCC’s Universal Service Fund and intercarrier compensation reform order, our pending court case, call completion, the Farm Bill, rural broadband, and concerns about federal funding mechanisms remain our key areas of focus on the advocacy front.
We continue to leverage every opportunity to engage in critical dialogue at the White House, the FCC, the Rural Utilities Service and Capitol Hill, as well as with federal agencies and third-party stakeholders, to explain the impact of the reform order on your bottom line and your ability to provide vital communications services to millions of consumers across the country.
I cannot tell you how important it is to have you, as well as your customers, engaged in this important policy debate. As rural telecom providers, your legacy is based on providing those vital connections that help to build up small-town America, which is why no one can stand idly by and watch these reforms tear it down.
The more voices and perspectives we can add to this ongoing debate on the critical need for access to—and sustainability of—advanced services, the greater the impact of our message. To that end, stay tuned for more information on our revitalized Save Rural Broadband advocacy campaign.
|USF and ICC Reform: NTCA appealed to a federal court for review of several aspects of the FCC's Universal Service Fund (USF) and intercarrier compensation (ICC) order, including the retroactive application of caps to prior investment, the unpredictable and dynamic nature of those caps, and the adoption of a bill-and-keep framework for setting ICC rates. The association also devoted substantial time to advocacy surrounding the regression analysis-based caps, identifying concerns with respect to further rulemaking proposals, developing targeted proposals for Connect America Fund support for smaller carriers, and seeking to improve the process and standards for waivers of certain rule changes.
Staff conducted nearly 40 ex parte meetings to express concerns with various aspects of the reform order. The association remains focused on ensuring that the commission addresses the uncertainty its further notice of proposed rulemaking generated and adopts more sustainable, sufficient and predictable cost-recovery mechanisms.
Swing-State Initiative: NTCA launched a swing-state initiative to raise awareness during the national presidential campaign of the importance of the rural communications sector. The association requests that members reach out to representatives from both campaigns to highlight the impact that the FCC's USF and ICC changes could have on consumers and small businesses in key battleground states.
Congressional Outreach: NTCA members and staff called on Congress to voice frustration with the commission's USF/ICC transformation process. The association's efforts ultimately led to the creation of seven letters signed by more than 70 U.S. senators and representatives. In addition, NTCA members and staff participated in five congressional hearings and briefings to express concerns about the commission's actions.
Call Termination: NTCA and its rural allies initiated a national call completion test project in April to measure rural call completion problems, as compared with nonrural areas. The group presented the findings, which show that nearly one-third of rural test lines experienced completion problems on more than 20% of incoming calls, to the FCC's Call Completion Task Force.
TECO: NTCA's political action committee, the Telecommunications Education Committee Organization (TECO), has raised $151,000, which is more than half of the TECO board's 2012 fundraising goal of $250,000. To date, TECO has contributed nearly $250,000 to congressional candidates who are up for election in 2012.
|Smart Rural Community Summit: NTCA convened its first Smart Rural Community Summit on April 26, bringing together more than 50 government officials and representatives from the fields of education, health care, public safety and other interests to discuss ways rural communities can leverage broadband networks to become smarter, more efficient and stronger participants in the global marketplace. The association held a follow-up luncheon at its headquarters on May 31.
"Surround-Sound" Initiative: NTCA continues to reach out to a range of federal agencies and other policymakers for assistance with weighing in on the commission's USF/ICC reform. The aim is for these agencies, all of which have a stake in rural and/or telecommunications policy issues, to examine the FCC's changes and express their positions on those changes to the commission.
To date, the association has engaged in meaningful dialogue with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Rural Utilities Service, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, state regulators, the White House Rural Council, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Energy.
IBM Site Visit: NTCA hosted a field trip to the IBM Innovation Center for several telco chief executive officers and top staff to tour the company's facilities and learn more about IBM's innovative applications and potential opportunities for rural broadband providers.
|Surveys and Reports: NTCA released its "Competitive Positioning and CLEC Operations Marketing Report," as well as the 2012 "Compensation and Benefits Survey." Both reports serve as valuable resources to assist with telco operations. Purchase them at www.ntca.org/estore.
Live Learning Center: NTCA continues to add new content to the Live Learning Center, including annual meeting educational sessions, as well as all board modules. Access the site at http://ntca.sclivelearningcenter.com/.
Webcasts: The association produced eight webcasts to keep members informed on USF/ICC reform and the latest regulatory actions for telcos. In addition, NTCA hosted five sponsored webinars that addressed migrating to next-generation IP-based packet networks, disaster recovery, a single-bill solution and satellite Internet. Archived presentations are available in the "Tech Knowledge" section of www.ntca.org. Podcasts of the webcasts are also available for download on the association's website.
TeleChoice Awards: NTCA recognized telco marketing and public relations excellence through its annual TeleChoice Awards program. The winners were announced during the Spring PR/Marketing Conference in Boston. To view the complete listing of winners, visit http://www.ntca.org/telechoice-awards/2012-telechoice-awards-winners.html.
|Group Health Program (GHP): NTCA launched its annual GHP Choice communications, including the announcement of new GHP Choice Select packages, which will be available to members beginning in 2013. In partnership with Healthways, Optimum Health was added as a no-cost, voluntary service for GHP participants. Optimum Health helps individuals find opportunities to improve their health and avoid complications from chronic medical conditions through convenient phone-based health coaching sessions with an experienced health professional.
Retirement Plans: The annual Retirement & Security Program benefit statement was enhanced to include a single-sum value of the participant's earned retirement benefit. In conjunction with Fidelity Investments, the Fidelity Freedom K funds were added to the Savings Plan's lineup of investment options as lower-cost options, replacing the Fidelity Freedom funds.
Enhanced Online Services: A Web portal was added as part of the new Optimum Health program, providing GHP participants with significant online resources, including a well-being assessment. GHP's prescription benefit manager, Medco Health Solutions, enhanced its mobile application to include electronic access to the prescription drug card, medication alerts and reminders. Also, an online precertification tool sponsored by GHP's health utilization management partner, HealthCare Strategies, is now available to health care providers and GHP participants. The association also implemented electronic document delivery, a secure Web-based tool for online access to the monthly benefits program billings and other benefit plan information.
Benefits Program Resources: Two benefits webcasts, "NTCA R&S Program: Security for Your Financial Future" and "Strategies to Improve Health Care Quality and Outcomes," were presented to members and plan participants. The association updated the online Health Care Reform Resource Center with bulletins and other information on the health care reform regulation. In addition, NTCA's website now features a testimonials area where members can hear and read what other members and plan participants think about the benefits program.
|Informational Mailers: FRS released three new informational mailers—"Calls Not Getting Through," "Cyberbullying" and "Wireless Needs Wires"—to help rural telcos educate their consumers on these important topics. Purchase them at www.frs.org.
Educational Series: FRS produced a white paper, "Aging in Place and the Role of Broadband," as part of its ongoing rural telecom educational series.
Fundraising Events: FRS hosted two successful fundraising events—a golf outing and "Sunset Over San Diego"—during the annual meeting in San Diego, Calif. Both events helped to raise more than $52,000 for the college scholarship program and other initiatives.
College Scholarships: The foundation announced the winners of the FRS scholarships in May. Thirty-one students received $2,500 awards, in addition to four students who received $5,000 through the new Staurulakis Family Scholarship program.
Youth Tour: Nearly 100 rural youth traveled to Washington, D.C., June 2–6, as part of the foundation's annual youth tour. Highlights of the trip were captured on the foundation's blog.
Website: FRS launched a new website, featuring improved navigation, user-focused content and dynamic visuals. The redesigned site now has online donation capability, regular blog updates, social media links and an eStore.