In the wake of a terrific Legislative & Policy (L&P) Conference last week, I wanted to take a step back and talk about our policy plan for 2013—what it is and how we’re doing on it. The core objectives in that plan drive everything that NTCA staff does, with every possible initiative, meeting, “ask,” letter or filing viewed through the prism of, “What does this do to move the ball forward?” I provided an overview at the L&P Conference, and I’ve done the same at a number of state association meetings and other events over the past several months. At the L&P conference, however, I had so many people indicate that the overview helped in “connecting the dots” between various efforts that I thought it might make sense to share it a bit more broadly.
The core objectives of our policy plan haven’t changed significantly since 2012, but they’ve evolved as time marches on and developments transpire. For example, our two primary themes remain essentially the same. We need to: (1) create regulatory certainty; and (2) build a broadband future. By contrast, in 2010 and 2011, those themes were “restoring” regulatory certainty and “saving” rural broadband. Starting in 2012, we realized that “restoring” and “saving” were too rooted in the past, as if we wanted to “put things back the way they were” rather than evolve into something bigger and better. It struck us that just as telcos are innovators in their communities—you’re so much more than telephone companies now—we needed our policy plan to look and speak to the future as well. Moreover, “restoring” and “saving” simply aren’t enough. The fact is that the regulatory fabric was already fraying and needed updating beyond mere “restoration,” and just “saving” rural broadband is insufficient given that you need to keep upgrading your networks to meet consumer demands and remain reasonably comparable. Read more
The FCC held a workshop last week focused on Gigabit Communities, with the goal of outlining how broadband providers can work with local and state leaders to deploy networks capable of delivering speeds of at least 1 gigabit per second to end-users. The workshop included proponents of privately owned systems, in addition to those involved in municipal systems and those deployed through public-private partnerships. Many of the issues discussed dovetail closely with matters highlighted by the Smart Rural Community initiative that NTCA has pursued for the past year.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski opened the workshop, noting that he had issued a “Gigabit City Challenge” in January while speaking to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. In that address, the Chairman challenged service providers and community leaders to establish at least one community with a gigabit-capable network in every state by 2015. Toward that end, the Chairman promised last week that the FCC would: Read more
It has been about a month since I sent my last DC update out, but between the Rural Telecom meeting, NTCA and OPASTCO unification, and what seems like an endless supply of filings to make and the need to meet and engage a new Congress, it has been quite the month…and while we’ve still got a lot of work in the next few weeks, I wanted to take a minute to draw your attention to a statement made in the wake of a recent meeting between FCC Chairman Genachowski and USDA Secretary Vilsack.
By way of background, NTCA staff has worked diligently to help policymakers understand the effects of the FCC’s universal service reforms on small telcos and what might help address some of the concerns arising out of those reforms. In fact, USDA is seeing the same thing we are—in a letter to the FCC, USDA reports that it saw demand for its loans drop in 2012, and we’re likewise hearing from members that regulatory uncertainty is chilling demand for capital and investment. Read more
Speaking January 18 at the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski called upon broadband providers and state and municipal community leaders to work together to ensure that every state will have at least one “gigabit community” no later than 2015.
“American economic history teaches a clear lesson about infrastructure,” Genachowski told meeting attendees. “If we build it, innovation will come. The U.S. needs a critical mass of gigabit communities nationwide so that innovators can develop next-generation applications and services that will drive economic growth and global competitiveness.”
According to the Fiber to the Home (FTTH) Council, approximately 42 communities in 14 states are currently served by ultra-high-speed fiber Internet providers; i.e., those capable of offering 1 Gbps service to customers. Read more
I wanted to start this email update with a graph and a table from recent FCC filings and publications, as well as a development flagged in recent press reports to help explain what is driving NTCA’s focus on the need for a more sensible IP evolution regulatory framework in 2013—but before I get there, I wanted to implore members one last time as noted in my last DC update to make sure they check the FCC’s “unserved areas” map. It’s important to do so to make sure that universal service support decisions are made based upon the best possible data, especially as they might affect your operations. Replies on this issue are due January 24, and even if you aren’t already working on this and need to file late, it’s still worth considering putting your information to present a more complete record. Read more
Happy new year to all! As we hit the ground running again after the holidays, there’s certainly a lot to cover in terms of things happening in Washington, D.C.
Of course, we saw “fiscal cliff” discussions and a new Congress getting work underway, but even in the narrower world of telecom issues, lots of things are moving. NTCA’s government affairs team blanketed Capitol Hill after New Year’s Day to re-establish old contacts and build new relationships within incoming officials and staff. Meanwhile, just in the first 10 days of January, our regulatory team filed three sets of comments with the FCC and held ex parte meetings with the legal advisers to the FCC commissioners about regression analysis caps and the need for a more sensible path forward on any further reforms. NTCA’s IP Evolution petition also continues to help shape the policy debate about what comes next—what a broadband future should look like—and we had great meetings over the past several days with both our rural association partners as well as a workgroup of NTCA telcos and volunteer experts about how to develop coordinated, concrete proposals for further consideration. Read more
This week, Ars Technica features a delightful article on the TI-80 graphing calculator which is going…color. You expected to me say “away,” didn’t you? You expected that a single-purpose electronic device without broadband connectivity is being herded off into the sunset of cassettes, calculator watches, dot matrix printers and film, right? Nope – as the article notes, “the constraints of the graphing calculator are key selling points. They provide something of a known quantity when it comes to doing math, especially on standardized tests, where a fully programmable smartphone with Web access would not be allowed”” That, plus the math they are challenged to digest has not changed across the centuries.