One thing I forgot to mention was the successful conclusion of the unification of NTCA (The National Telecommunications Cooperative Association) and OPASTCO (Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies) during the RTIME conference in Orlando. The unification of the two organizations will increase the policy influence of the rural service providers and telecom companies. Several long-standing association by-laws were changed, one of which provides non-cooperative Telco members full voting rights in the new entity. At the end of the month the unification will be declared complete and the new entity will be called NTCA, The Rural Broadband Association. Shirley Bloomfield will be the CEO on March 1 when the unification is made official.
Given the new regulatory environment, call completion issues and changes in funding, increasing the presence and strengthening the influence of the rural ILECs is very important. Robert M. McDowell, FCC commissioner, stated, "It is encouraging to see the rural telecom industry unify their organizations and policy initiatives. This enables the industry to lead with one voice and focus their efforts. I look forward to working with the new organization."
The new NTCA will represent nearly a 1000 primarily rural and small town telecommunications cooperatives all of which have an interest in the new rules guiding the allocation of funding for broadband expansion. It is critical that its members are given the best opportunity to express desired changes and receive fair hearing with the FCC. Change is understood and expected in telecommunications but disruption needs to be avoided.