Members of the TDS Government and Regulatory Affairs (GRA) team recently met with more than 60 congressional offices serving 31 states to advocate on behalf of rural customers. Why? Because TDS customers want to see broadband Internet access expanded to more rural areas.
The State Government Affairs managers (SGA) — Gail Long, Bruce Mottern, Tom McCabe, Paul Pederson, Tom Murray, Jeff Handley, Jim Meade, and Jean Pauk — joined Drew Petersen, vice president of TDS External Affairs and Communications in Washington, DC. Their efforts led to the US House and the US Senate sending letters, signed by a majority of Congress, urging the FCC to make favorable changes to their regulatory oversight.
“Our SGAs were directly responsible for more than 40 percent of the signatures on each letter,” stated Drew Petersen. “Their efforts, on behalf of our rural customers, are critical if we’re going to see any modernization of federal regulatory policies that are so critical to creating economic growth, improving educational opportunities, and providing greater availability of telemedicine delivered over broadband connections.”
The US House letter, authored by US Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado who represents several communities TDS serves, generated 89 signatures from his colleagues. More than 40 percent of these signatures were from members representing communities TDS Telecom serves — by members who also support further broadband expansion by TDS.
The letter generated out of the US Senate was authored by Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota (another state where TDS maintains operations). It garnered signatures by 44 Senators. TDS was instrumental in gaining support from 24 of the signors.
“It’s time for the FCC to update the regulatory landscape,” Petersen said. “The strong message sent from members of Congress clearly demonstrates Congressional agreement. Hopefully this message motivates the FCC to makes an impact so we soon see improvements in the way funding flows to our local communities for broadband expansion.”
Why the SGA team was in DC
The eight-member team was in DC in late-April to participate in the NTCA Rural Broadband Association® Legislative & Policy Conference. They were among more than 500 local telecommunications companies in attendance. Collectively, the group was determined to elevate the discussion on important policy considerations pending at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and in the US Congress. The goal: reform the way the FCC incentivizes companies to make significant infrastructure investments to stimulate broadband deployment in rural, high-cost and hard-to-serve areas.
Similarly, the rural telecom industry also mobilized additional congressional allies to send letters to the FCC encouraging the agency to expand universal service support to rural carriers for the deployment of stand-alone broadband services. While many rural areas still do not enjoy reliable wireless voice coverage, the trend of dropping landlines in favor of broadband-only connections is increasing.
“It’s exactly why the FCC needs to adjust its support policies,” Petersen concluded. “Changes are necessary to make it easier for customers in rural areas to receive these vital communications services.”