Advocating for Rural Broadband in Washington, D.C.

Late March marks the annual trip Kingdom representatives make to Washington, D.C. to visit our legislators. From March 21-23, the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association sponsors its Legislative & Policy Conference, and over 500 rural telecom representatives from throughout the country gather for educational briefings about emerging rules, regulations and other industry issues. During the conference, Kingdom’s “lobbyists”  take part in visits to policymakers on Capital Hill and at the FCC.

This year Kingdom’s representatives included board president, Doug Lensing; board member, Danelle Uebinger; Tom Young, general manager, and Lynne Smith, our dispatcher. They met with telecom specialists in the offices of Senator Roy Blunt and Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer to discuss the importance of high-speed Internet to rural areas. The topics of the day were the importance of broadband for rural business development and growth and the ways that broadband brings education, public safety, telemedicine and other opportunities to rural consumers.

With the advent of the National Broadband Plan and changes looming for the Universal Service Fund that supports telecommunications in sparsely populated rural areas, General Manager Tom Young emphasized the significant role small communications providers like Kingdom play in delivering consumers affordable broadband service.

The National Broadband Plan stirred some controversy with its call for standards of 100MB broadband for urban areas and 4MB service for rural America. Many fear that rural areas would become have-nots, whose ability to recruit and retain business would be severely hamstrung.

“One of the many things that we didn’t like at first glance was their plan for the Rural Divide,” Young said. “The last time I looked at the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which is the law of the land, it provided for comparable services at comparable prices for rural residents.”

Young urged support for policies that recognize the costs associated with building and maintaining broadband infrastructure in rural and remote areas and acknowledge the need for adequate cost recovery for telcos like Kingdom that have committed to connecting those high-cost areas to the broadband world.

And what do telephone folks do when they go to Washington, other than attend conferences and visit lawmakers? They find telephone booths, of course! These elegant beauties are in the lobby of the Longworth building across from the U.S. Capitol.

 

Lynne, Kingdom dispatcher, makes a call.


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