#RuralIsCool Volume 1, Issue 16/April 4, 2019


Bloomfield Moderates House Rural Broadband Caucus Discussion With Pai, Starks 

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield moderated an April 2, 2019, discussion with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Commissioner Geoffrey Starks and rural broadband industry stakeholders in Washington, D.C.

Billed as a “Rural Broadband Q&A,” the event was organized by the U.S. House of Representatives Rural Broadband Caucus in coordination with NTCA.

“From Universal Service Fund tools to infrastructure initiatives to spectrum policy—great discussion with key policy leaders on what it will take to connect rural Americans!” Bloomfield tweeted after the event.

The association added a tweet of its own, along with a photo of Rural Broadband Caucus members Rob J. Wittman (R–Va.), Peter F. Welch (D–Vt.) and Bob E. Latta (R–Ohio), among others: “Great to see so many members of Congress at today's House Rural Broadband Caucus event to discuss the value proposition of #ruralbroadband and the role of universal service in bridging the digital divide. NTCA was glad to be a part of such an important conversation!”

In a blog post about the event, Bloomfield wrote, “I continue to be impressed with the level of depth and insight this body of five commissioners has combined as they work together to produce communications policy for our country and I am so pleased that they are focusing much of this collective brainpower right now on how to continue the expansion of broadband for rural Americans.

O’Reilly, Carr Confirmed for NTCA Legislative + Policy Conference

FCC  Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr will be the featured speakers at the annual NTCA Legislative + Policy Conference, taking place April 14–16, 2019, in Washington, D.C.

The annual conference hosts rural broadband executives and employees from across the United States who will hear from policymakers before heading to Capitol Hill to advocate on behalf of the rural broadband industry.

O’Rielly and Carr will each speak to attendees on Monday, April 15. The conference will also feature congressional staff and FCC adviser panel discussions, as well as an address from U.S. House Rep. Rob J. Wittman (R–Va.).

The April 15 agenda also includes Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and Universal Service Administrative Co. roundtables and a Rural Broadband PAC/RTAF 50th anniversary event at Lincoln’s Cottage.

Wittman will speak at the kickoff breakfast on April 16, ahead of Capitol Hill visits by conference attendees.

On April 17, the Foundation for Rural service will host “Rural Broadband and the Next Generation of American Jobs,” which includes the presentation of a white paper exploring changes in the U.S. job market and implications for rural education. A roundtable discussion on the topic between educators, libraries and rural broadband providers will follow the paper presentation. 

NTCA Comments on Spectrum Requirements for Rural Industry and Agriculture

In comments filed April 1, 2019, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association set forth the importance of broadband to the agriculture industry and to rural America. “It is evident that robust broadband is necessary to secure the future of the rural economy,” the association said.

Citing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the association said U.S. farms generated $245 billion in gross output and purchased more than $225 billion in inputs in 2015, that U.S. farming exports in 2016 were valued at $135 billion, and that in 2019, U.S. exports are expected to reach $141.5 billion. Also, while rural manufacturing jobs have declined, that sector still represents 14% of all rural nonfarm jobs.

Broadband—both wired and wireless—“is critical to agriculture and its forward evolution with technology,” the association said. However, while progress in mobile capability must not be ignored, “policymakers cannot overlook that ‘wireless needs wires:’ mobile wireless facilities—and the IoT and other applications they enable—depend upon adequate, wired backhaul capabilities to realize their full potential.”

“The positive impacts of a strong rural economy on the national condition have been quantified; the role of broadband in supporting those impacts is clear,” the association said. “Accordingly, NTCA submits its interest in ensuring adequate access to spectrum as well as other critical inputs necessary to ensure the deployment and maintenance of robust broadband networks throughout the nation.”

NTCA Lays Out Rural Priorities for Starks, Continues Rate Floor Advocacy

During an April 1, 2019, meeting with Geoffrey Starks, the newest FCC commissioner, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield and Senior Vice President of Industry Affairs and Business Development Michael Romano discussed the importance of sufficient and predictable universal service funding for rural America and on tribal lands.

Bloomfield and Romano also stressed the importance of spectrum policies that balance the goals of reaching as many consumers as possible and promoting operations and service availability in more rural areas.

In a separate April 1 meeting with Arielle Roth, legal adviser to Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, and again on April 2 with Evan Swarztrauber, policy adviser to Commissioner Brendan Carr, Romano expressed the association’s support for elimination of the commission’s rate floor policy, consistent with both the association’s prior advocacy and the proposed course of action in the commission’s draft report and order on the rate floor.

Notes in the News for April 4, 2019

The U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee marked up the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act on April 3. NTCA has issued a statement in support of the bill.

The U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee has approved the Save the Internet Act, and Committee Chairman Frank J. Pallone (D–N.J.) issued a statement on the bill’s passage through the committee. NTCA released a statement on the bill earlier this week.

The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau is seeking additional comments on improving the Wireless Resiliency Cooperative Framework. Comments are due April 29.

The FCC is requesting nominations for membership on a new Broadband Infrastructure Deployment Job Skills and Training Opportunities Working Group of the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC).

The U.S. House Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee held a hearing on the FCC budget April 3.

The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee on April 2 passed H.R. 1994, the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019.


NTCA Senior Regulatory Counsel Brian Ford spoke about robocalls via an April 3 Skype call to the South Dakota Telecommunications Association.