In a recent 3-day whirlwind, Jean Pauk, State Government Affairs manager at TDS, met with nearly 20 members of Congress who represent TDS Telecom communities.
The visits took place as part of the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) “fly-in.” NTCA encouraged local telecom and broadband company representatives to join them in Washington D.C. for meetings with legislative delegations to discuss issues critical to rural customers and telecom companies, including:
1. The need to establish a universal service fund for stand-alone broadband service.Today, TDS receives universal service fund support on customer voice lines. More and more customers would only like to purchase a broadband line, but without any universal service funds, the cost of the line increases and becomes more costly to the end user customer. NTCA and the rural companies, including TDS, are pushing the FCC to change the universal service fun to provide support for broadband-only lines to help keep the broadband costs affordable for all consumers.
2. Retransmission reform to level the playing field between broadcasters and video providers. Today, broadcasters hold all of the power in the retransmission negotiations. They basically demand that distributors, such as TDS TV and other IPTV and cable providers, pay whatever price they demand for airing their programming to our customers. If their price isn’t paid, they black out the channel. This has been an issue for years, but legislators are starting to talk about the issue more and more. One recent proposal has suggested that broadcasters would have to provide the cost for each channel and the consumer would get to pick and choose which channels they want…with the IPTV and cable providers acting as a billing agent for the broadcast providers based on what the consumers chose to be billed for.
3. Competition from government/municipal networks.
During the 3-day “fly-in” Jean participated in meetings with eight delegates from Minnesota, 10 delegates from Wisconsin, and a few dignitaries. She was joined by representatives from the Minnesota Telecom Alliance for meetings with: Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken; Representatives Tim Walz, John Kline, Erik Paulsen, Betty McCollum, Collin Peterson, and Richard Nolan.
Jean was joined by members of the Wisconsin State Telecommunications Association for meetings with: Senators Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson; Representatives Paul Ryan, Mark Pocan, Ron Kind, Gwen Moore, Jim Sensenbrenner, Tom Petri, Sean Duffy, and Reid Ribble.
As part of the fly-in, Jean also had a chance to meet with several notable officials, including former governors Tommy Thompson (Wisconsin) and Ben Nelson (Nebraska) (top photo). She also met with Glenn Grothman, former Wisconsin State Senator and current candidate for the state’s sixth district.
Despite how busy the legislators and their staff were with last minute votes before the Fall Recess, they all took the time to meet with the NTCA delegation.
“All of the visits resulted in productive discussions on our issues,” Jean says. “In fact, most offices asked us to keep in touch so they could assist in the future with our broadband and video issues. It just goes to show how many things they are dealing with, yet they still took the time to meet with us on our issues, in large part because of the relationships we’ve established over the years with them.”