was a busy year for the telecommunications
industry in Washington—including seven con-
gressional hearings at which NTCA–The Rural
broadband Association staff and members testi-
fied, as well as numerous other panels and events featuring NTCA staff. This
beehive of activity contributed to both a heightened focus on and increased
resources for broadband deployment across the country.
Among other items, Congress pushed forward a new Farm bill, which
includes additional initiatives to promote rural broadband. Moreover, the
Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 created a new pilot program overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s
(USDA) Rural Utilities Service (RUS). This
e-Connectivity Pilot Program—
now known as the ReConnect
Program—provides $600 million
through grants and loans for broadband
deployment in mostly unserved areas. Furthermore, this
pilot program will likely receive even more funding in 2019 after the Senate
voted to appropriate $425 million and the House voted to appropriate $550 million to the program in their respective fiscal year 2019 appropriations bills; in
either case, the total across the 2018–2019 fiscal years would exceed $1 billion.
Finally, Congress introduced a myriad of other bills dedicated to the telecommunications and broadband industry. From the RAY bAUM’S
Act to the STREAMlINE Small Cell Deployment
Act, Congress was active in the sector and held
several hearings on related topics.
2019 is certain to bring even further activity in this space.
The rollout of the ReConnect Program, implementation of the Farm bill
and a changing committee landscape will all become immediate priorities in
the new year. We expect Congress will also want to make sure the FCC delivers
on promises to resolve budgetary concerns in the Universal Service Fund (USF)
High-Cost program. Overall, 2019 is shaping up to be very active for NTCA and
A New Congress
l by MIChAEL DAnIELs