Last week the NTCA Rural Broadband Association had their annual Legislature and Policy meeting in Washington, D.C. For me it represented an opportunity to participate in a process that is cloaked in secrecy and looked upon with disdain. I was going to learn about the effort by rural telephone companies to lobby congress. The first day of the process began with a discussion of the process, aids that would represent the actual congressman and senators, and key talking points.
The process was fairly straightforward. Meetings had been set up with the staff of various members of congress. I requested and was accepted to join a group from Texas as ANPI has developed a significant presence in the state and I had the opportunity to meet with staff members of my congressional representative, Sam Johnson. I would have preferred meeting with the actual members but given the amount of money NTCA has available for lobbying compared to the larger ILECs, cable companies and wireless carriers this was not unexpected. According to an earlier presentation the amount of money spent by the larger players in our space totaled just over $70 million per year. That is 100 times the amount that NTCA has for the same purpose. It is therefore important for members of the NTCA to take advantage of the opportunity to raise important issues with as many members of congress as possible. Additionally, it is important for us to understand that we must also maintain contact after these meetings. As briefed by an aid to Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader of the Senate, communicating with them only once per year will not be effective in conveying critical needs or affecting the legislative directions.
NTCA represents nearly 900 companies, however, according to the Center for Responsive Politics there were 12,389 lobbyists in 2012 spending an estimated $3.3 billion to influence legislation. Getting the attention we deserve is not easy and much credit should be extended to Shirley Bloomfield, NTCA CEO, for her efforts and the presence she has established.