February 2018
News and Updates
Here are some updates from the Texas Telephone Association. View as Webpage
Update from Executive Director Lyn Kamerman
Focus on Texas PUC rulemaking
As you know, the Texas Telephone Association took the lead on legislative planning and action advance of and during the 2017 session of the Texas Legislature which resulted in the passage of Senate Bill 586. Thanks to this key legislation, rural local telephone companies will now have a long-term, regulatory-efficient mechanism that consistently provides the opportunity to earn a reasonable rate of return. In short, Senate Bill 586 laid the groundwork to make sure rural telecommunication companies will have the financial support they need to maintain and upgrade their networks as we move forward in a growing Texas.

In October, the Public Utility Commission of Texas opened Project No. 47669 to develop a rule that will implement SB 586. Well before this project was opened, TTA worked strategically to build a consensus for the draft rule we developed and met frequently with PUC staff and stakeholders. TTA filed a draft rule and comments in Project No. 47669 on February 6. Ours was the only proposed rule filed in the rulemaking. The PUC will host a workshop to hear from stakeholders on this issue on February 27 at the PUC. TTA’s filing will be the focus of the discussion during the workshop, and we will continue to work closely with PUC senior staff and reach out to other stakeholders to prepare for the workshop.

The draft rule will enable telephone companies to take advantage of the benefits gained by our successful campaign to pass SB 586. Specifically, electing small and rural companies will annually provide an earnings report that builds upon the existing earnings reporting process. This Earning Monitoring Report “EMR+” filing will accomplish the “needs test” that other non-Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier stakeholders have been requesting in the legislative arena for years – with a minimal administrative burden upon small telephone companies. This annual filing will serve to preserve a consistent, reliable distribution from the Texas Universal Service Fund (TUSF). Any company with a Rate of Return below the reasonable band will have the opportunity to file for increased earnings and/or universal service fund draws in a streamlined proceeding that is much more simplified than a comprehensive rate case. 

The future for small telephone companies looks completely different now than it did a few years ago, when the specter of a return to access-line-count-based support threatened the existence of many rural companies. The proposed rule is the culmination of many months of strategic planning and careful coordination by TTA and its members. I am thrilled that the new rule will provide TTA members with a more stable TUSF support mechanism without burdening our members with potential prohibitive costs associated with rate cases.
Association News
Legislative Update – John Hubbard and Ian Randolph
As we get closer to the start of the 2019 session of the Texas Legislature, we want to look at some of the dynamics affecting what happens at the Capitol. One of the most important dynamics that directly affects TTA is demographics.
For much of its history, Texas has been dominated by rural interests reflecting the fact that most of its population was in rural areas. The Legislature was dominated by rural members and the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the House of Representatives and chairs of budget-writing committees were mostly from rural areas. Consequently, issues surrounding oil and gas, cattle, rural electrification and telephony and roads dominated legislative debates.
Over the years, demographics evolved, and population changes impacted how legislative districts are drawn. Areas increasing in population will gain legislative seats -- and influence -- while areas losing population lose seats and influence. Current demographic trends are not favorable for rural interests. Consequently, we must be ever vigilant in making sure we are continuously delivering an accurate, convincing and disciplined message. Let’s look at the demographics we will have to overcome.
Between 2010 and 2016, 96 Texas counties lost population, according to the Texas Demographic Center. All 96 of these counties are in rural areas, especially in West Texas and East Texas. Not surprisingly, all the counties gaining population are found in and around the triangle large formed by the Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin-San Antonio and Houston metropolitan areas. Specifically, in fiscal year 2015-2016, the 10 fastest growing counties in Texas are: Harris, Tarrant, Bexar, Dallas, Denton, Fort Bend, Collin, Travis and Williamson counties. As a result, when the Texas Legislature takes up redistricting after the 2020 census is taken, we can expect these areas to gain seats and rural areas to lose seats in the Texas House and Senate. This continues a trend that started back in the mid-to-late 20th century.
The 2019 legislative session will be the last session before the 2020 census. Based on demographics, things are going to get more difficult. The 2021 legislative session will have fewer rural members. Now more than ever, we should make our voice heard with the rural members currently serving in the Legislature. We encourage you to engage with your legislators. Tell them about your history and plans to serve your customers. Make sure they know how important rural telecommunications is -- not just to rural schools and businesses -- but to businesses with headquarters in metropolitan areas throughout our state.
Please let us know how things are going. We want to hear what you are hearing from your legislators and their staff members. We’re here to help in any way we can.
Planning underway for TTA Convention and Product Showcase set for Sept. 9-12
Planning is underway for the Texas Telephone Association Convention and Product Showcase set for Sept. 9-12 at Horseshoe Bay Resort.

Convention committee members have been developing an agenda for the conference. Convention committee members include: Ann Dow marketing and communications manager with UDP, Inc. ; Nancy Stewart, president of Telecom America Services ; Jennifer Pavlicek sales director with Innovative Systems ; Sue Justesen, client relations manager with TouchTone Communications ; Jody Barr, president of Hickman Advertising ; and J.C. Evans, director of sales with ADB Companies .

Look for more details soon.
Don't forget – apply for TTA Foundation 2018 scholarships
The deadline to apply for Texas Telephone Association Foundation 2018 scholarships is March 30.
The Texas Telephone Association Foundation (TTAF), a nonprofit, philanthropic organization founded to help further the understanding of telephony and advance telecommunications as a career choice, each year awards six $2,000 four-year scholarships to Texas students. The TTA scholarship program is made possible by contributions from TTA members and associate members.
Since 1992, the TTA Foundation has awarded more than $330,000 in scholarships to Texas students. A link to the scholarship application can be found here.
Coming up – TCEI-EXPO set for April 3-5 in Belton
Are you ready for a crawfish boil? The Texas Communications Expo, Inc. is inviting Texas Telephone Association members to participate in the annual TCEI- EXPO April 3-5 in Belton, Texas. An estimated 1,100 communications professionals from across the country are expected to attend the event, which will feature exhibitors demonstrating the latest trends in the communications industry and a crawfish boil.
For more information about the TCEI-EXPO or to register, please visit www.tcei-expo.com .
Registration now open for JSI 2018 management seminars
Registration is open for JSI’s 2018 Management Seminars featuring regulatory, financial, management and technical topics. Seminars are scheduled for May 3-4 in Minneapolis, May 10-11 in Atlanta and May 17-18 in San Antonio.

 “In 2018, with USF reform well underway, we will focus on strategic initiatives that will help you replace lost Universal Service funds, provide the services customers need and desire, improve your company’s bottom line, and plan for the network of the future,’’ according to JSI .

For more information about CPE credits, hotel and to register, visit the JSI website . Early bird discounts are offered through March 15.
Updates to TTA 2018 Member Directory
There are some additional updates to the TTA 2018 Member Directory. The new contact for Mitchell Engineering is Brian Whitaker. Mitchell Engineering is a San Francisco, California-based heavy civil contractor. Founders Michael Silva and Curtis Mitchell have shaped the company around core principles that include developing and maintaining long term relationships with clients, employees, vendors and subcontractors.
Brian can be reached at:

Mitchell Engineering
400 N. Fourth Street
Wills Point, Texas 75169
In the News
Special Report—From AT&T to Cincinnati Bell: Which carriers received the most rural broadband funding in 2017?
The second phase of the FCC’s Connect America Fund (CAF-II) is in full swing and service providers are taking their funding allocations to extend services too hard to reach rural areas of their service territories. In 2013, the FCC created the Connect America Fund as part of a realignment of the regulator’s Universal Service Fund and Intercarrier Compensation systems to accelerate broadband buildout to the approximately 23 million users in the United States. Building on the success of the CAF program, the FCC will hold its $2 billion  Connect America Fund Phase II auction  this July with the aim of expanding wireline and wireless broadband in unserved rural areas of the country. Read more.

YK Communications blog post: Business Spotlight: JCHD EMS in Ganado
The Jackson County Hospital District Emergency Medical Service (JCHD EMS) provides pre-hospital care to the citizens of Jackson County. Its approximately 3,000-square-foot Ganado station was built in 2017 and includes two ambulance bays, two Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU) ambulances, and living and working spaces. In addition to using top-of-the-line ambulances, the JCHD EMS Ganado station also uses advanced solutions from YK Communications — broadband internet, managed Wi-Fi, voice, and CloudCam security. Read more.

Internet firms back congressional vote to restore net neutrality rules
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Technology companies including Alphabet Inc ( GOOGL.O ) and Facebook Inc ( FB.O ) threw their weight behind a congressional bid to reverse the Trump administration’s plan to repeal Obama-era rules designed to protect an open internet. Read more.

Ready, Set...Net Neutrality Challenges Can Begin This Week
It's official. Thursday, Feb. 22, will be the red letter day for court and congressional challenges to the  FCC's Dec. 14 decision  to roll back FCC network neutrality rules and reclassify ISPs out from under Title II common carrier regs. The FCC Has delivered the final Restoring Internet Freedom order to the Federal Register, which has just signaled it would be publishing that order on Thursday. Read more.

Sorry, FCC: Charter will lower investment after net neutrality repeal
The Federal Communications Commission's quest to prove that killing net neutrality is somehow raising broadband investment recently focused on Charter Communications. Charter, the second largest US cable company after Comcast, "is investing more in its broadband network and workforce because of the FCC's Restoring Internet Freedom Order [that repealed net neutrality rules] and last year's tax reform legislation," FCC Chief of Staff Matthew Berry claimed in a tweet Friday. But as we noted earlier this week , Charter raised its capital investment in 2017 while the net neutrality rules were in place. And with the repeal soon to take effect, Charter says it is preparing for a "meaningful decline" in spending on building and upgrading broadband networks. Read more.

YouTube Revamped Its Ad System. AT&T Still Hasn’t Returned.
AT&T, one of the nation’s biggest marketers, has yet to return to YouTube nearly a year after pulling its advertising from the platform because of concerns that it could appear alongside offensive material. Read more.

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