Mid-Year 2019 Update from the Public Policy Committee
By Gary Bolton (ADTRAN) - Chair of Committee, Joanne Hovis (CTC Technology & Energy) - Vice Chair, Tom Cohen (Kelley Drye)
Public Policy Report – Mid-Year 2019
I’m on the plane heading home from an extremely successful Fiber Connect conference in Orlando this week. We had near record attendance and an outstanding line up of speakers. I hope that you all had to opportunity to join us. It was also nice to hold both a policy committee meeting in person yesterday and a dedicated policy strategy session during today’s board meeting.
It’s been a pretty busy first half of 2019 with a fly-in on Capitol Hill, lots of activity during the States legislative sessions, commissioning exciting new research that we can leverage in our fiber advocacy and the kick-off of our FBA Canadian policy call. The second half of 2019, we will be heavily focused on the FCC’s proceeding for the $20B Rural Digital Opportunities Fund (aka CAF-3) which we expect to get tee’d up in August. We’re also excited about a new FBA regional event that we’ll be holding in Fort Collins, CO November 5-6.
Below, you’ll find a quick update on our policy activity for the first half of 2019 and our key positions. We hold monthly policy calls and we welcome members to participate and contribute on our committee.
Public Policy Committee Mission
The Fiber Broadband Association Public Policy Committee seeks to advance the Association’s interest in accelerating the deployment of fiber to all Americans by selectively participating in government proceedings where the outcome will “move the needle” on all-fiber deployments and where we can get the most efficient use of our resources.
The Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) was active in many public policy activities during the second quarter of the year. On the federal level, we joined with NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association to hold an event on May 23rd on Capitol Hill dedicated to discussing the value and importance of deploying all-fiber networks, especially in rural areas (the “Fiber Fast” event). Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Representative Peter Welch (D-ME) spoke at the event, along with FBA President and CEO, Lisa Youngers, and NTCA President and CEO, Shirley Bloomfeld. We also had three of our service provider members, Ben Moncrief (C-Spire), Monica Webb (Ting) and Diego Anderson (Lumos Networks), appear on panels at the event, and FBA Board member Gary Bolton (ADTRAN) moderate a panel.
After the event, Lisa Youngers, Gary Bolton and our members met with Republican staff on the Senate Commerce Committee and Democratic staff on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to discuss infrastructure issues. The meeting with the House staff was particularly productive because Chairman Pallone (D-NJ) had just introduced infrastructure legislation that would dedicate $40 billion to deploy broadband in unserved areas. A few days after the meeting the House staff, FBA followed up with the staff and submitted proposed amendments that would further ensure that providers building all-fiber networks would get access to these funds. We intend to stay in contact with staff as infrastructure legislation is considered.
Also this quarter, the FBA hosted an inaugural “Fiber for Breakfast” event, a meeting of fiber and telecom leaders in the D.C. region, to discuss policy priorities and to find ways to collaborate on industry issues. FBA plans to repeat this event a few more times this year to keep the conversation with leaders going.
In addition, during the second quarter, as part of our effort to accelerate entry by any provider seeking to build an all-fiber network, we supported legislation in various states that would enable electric cooperatives to deploy broadband networks. Already this year, new laws enabling electric cooperative entry have been enacted in many states, including Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas. We also weighed in to support legislation in Alabama that would facilitate railroad crossings by broadband providers, which our members have found to be a substantial problem. If you know of other state legislation that would accelerate all-fiber builds, please contact us.
FBA also just completed two studies that will support our public policy efforts. One study by a group of professors shows that areas with high speed broadband have lower unemployment rates. The other study by Cartesian, a business consulting firm, follows up on a study that the firm conducted for us a decade ago about the cost to deploy all-fiber networks in rural areas.
That latter study by Cartesian shows that it is cost effective to deploy all-fiber networks to at least 90% of the homes in the country. These findings will be particularly useful in our advocacy before the FCC as it considers rules for the new Rural Digital Opportunities Fund, which will award $20 billion over the next 10 years to build broadband networks in unserved areas, largely in price cap carrier territory.
We expect to dedicate substantial time and resources during the next year on our advocacy before the FCC on this matter. If you have an interest in this funding and would like to assist us in our advocacy, please let us know.
Canadian Policy Committee
Finally, in years past, FBA has occasionally participated in public policy advocacy in Canada. We aim to increase those efforts to support our Canadian members’ all-fiber builds. To get that process going, we are initiating a monthly call and invite all Canadian members to participate.
As always, we welcome members to join us on the Public Policy Committee and we will continue to work strategic advocacy in an effort to accelerate the deployment of fiber networks. Please feel free to reach out to myself, Joanne Hovis, Lisa Youngers, Tom Cohen or any member of the Public Policy Committee if you have any questions, concerns or wish to have further information.
Gary Bolton (ADTRAN)
Public Policy Committee Chair
Fiber Broadband Association Treasurer and member of the Board of Directors