#RuralIsCool Volume 1, Issue 5/January 17, 2019

Thune Named Chair of Senate Commerce Subcommittee

Sen. John Thune (R – S.D.) last week was named chairman of U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet. Senate Commerce Chairman Roger F. Wicker (R–Miss.) included the Thune news as part of a larger January 11, 2019, announcement about the full slate of Commerce subcommittee chairman.

Thune, who had previously been full committee chairman, will step aside to serve as the majority whip.

The full Senate Commerce Committee also reconfigured its subcommittees, adding a Subcommittee on Security chaired by Daniel S. Sullivan (R–Alaska). “The new Subcommittee on Security will address the intersection of economic and national security,” Wicker said.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank J. Pallone (D–N.J.) announced a committee roster on January 15, 2019, that included Rep. Mike F. Doyle (D–Pa.) as chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. On the Republican side, Rep. Greg P. Walden (R–Ore.), ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, named Rep. Bob E. Latta (R–Ohio) ranking member of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

Pai Invited to Address RTIME

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association has reinvented its annual meeting.

The rural broadband industry’s biggest event, the Rural Telecom Industry Meeting and Expo (RTIME), takes place February 3–6, 2019, in New Orleans, La., and includes a number of new features. Not only has FCC Chairman Ajit Pai been invited to address attendees, but this year’s show includes 16 concurrent sessions, three general sessions, and a special policy and industry fundamentals session.

Also new to RTIME in 2019:

  • EXPO Live—educational programming live on the show floor.
  • EXPO Forum—product demos during EXPO hours.
  • Longer show hours.
  • Details at the NTCA booth about the association’s new GetIN campaign, showing how NTCA members can get the most out of their membership.
  • Keynote speaker Seth Mattison on the paradigm shift that rural broadband leaders need to understand.
  • Celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the Foundation for Rural Service and 50th anniversary of NTCA Rural Broadband PAC.

RTIME registration remains open at the regular rate through January 28, 2019.

NTCA Comments on Development of a Privacy Framework

In comments submitted January 15, 2019, to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association said it supports the guiding principles laid out in a request for information (RFI) by NIST on how best to develop a framework for privacy.

The association said such a framework should be “adaptable to many organizations across different sectors and also risk‐based, outcome-based, voluntary and nonprescriptive; compatible with other standards; and flexible to respond to evolving technology and threats.”

The association also noted that while “privacy” has been defined mainly by various statutes and case law, “how privacy should be ensured is best approached through voluntary, dynamic, market‐driven standards.” Such standards are “the best tools because they are flexible, scalable and able to respond more rapidly to evolving threats than regulatory rulemaking,” the association said.

“NTCA submits that this approach will best enable industry to meet the privacy standards formed by statue and defined by an evolving body of law,” the association said.

Congressional Research Service Releases Updated Broadband Report

The Congressional Research Service on January 9, 2019, released an updated report on broadband internet and federal funding mechanisms that highlighted the need for the 116th Congress “to strike a balance between providing federal assistance for unserved and underserved areas where the private sector may not be providing acceptable levels of broadband service, while at the same time minimizing any deleterious effects that government intervention in the marketplace may have on competition and private sector investment.”

The 35-page report, “Broadband Internet Access and the Digital Divide: Federal Assistance Programs,” includes a section, “Broadband in Rural Areas,” that asserts that although there are “many examples of rural communities with state of the art telecommunications facilities, recent surveys and studies have indicated that, in general, rural areas (and particularly tribal areas) tend to lag behind urban and suburban areas in broadband deployment.”

To support that contention, the report cites the FCC’s “Communications Marketplace Report,” which found:

· “As of year-end 2017, 94% of the overall population had coverage [of fixed terrestrial broadband at speeds of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps], up from 91.9% in 2016. Nonetheless, the gap in rural and tribal America remains notable: over 24% of Americans in rural areas and 32% of Americans in tribal lands lack coverage from fixed terrestrial 25 Mbps/3 Mbps broadband, as compared to only 1.5% of Americans in urban areas.”

· Rural areas “continue to lag behind urban areas” in mobile broadband deployment. “Although evaluated urban areas saw an increase of 10 Mbps/3 Mbps mobile LTE (median speed) from 81.9% in 2014 to 92.6% in 2017, such deployment in evaluated rural areas remained relatively flat at about 70%.”

The report also cites survey data from the Pew Research Center showing that 58% of adults in rural areas said they have a high-speed broadband connection at home, as opposed to 67% of adults in urban areas and 70% of adults in suburban areas. The report also points to a November 2017 Census Bureau survey showing that 72.9% of rural residents use the internet versus 78.5% of urban residents.

“According to NTIA, the data ‘indicates a fairly constant 6–9 percentage point gap between rural and urban communities’ internet use over time,’” the report said.

Notes in the News 

NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield will conduct a live event on the NTCA Facebook page Friday, January 18, at noon Eastern time to review 2018’s advocacy accomplishments and to preview the upcoming RTIME conference.

The Farm Credit Council will be promoting rural broadband priorities on social media January 17 as part of its larger Rebuild Rural campaign.

The FCC suspended its ongoing 28 GHz band auction on Monday, January 14, due to the closure of federal agencies on that day for inclement weather. The auction resumed Tuesday.

The TRACED Act, introduced by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), was brought to the Senate floor January 15.


Shirley Bloomfield spoke January 15, 2019, on a panel, “Opportunities for Bipartisan Tech Policy,” hosted by Next Century Cities, in Washington, D.C.

NTCA Vice President of Policy Joshua Seidemann took part in a federal panel update at the WYTA Winter Meeting/Legislative Reception January 15 in Cheyenne, Wyo.