January 2018
News and Updates
Here are some updates from the Texas Telephone Association. View as Webpage
Update from Executive Director Lyn Kamerman
Happy New Year Looking b ack at 2017 and ahead at 2018
Happy New Year to all our members. As we look forward to 2018, I want to thank all of you for your hard work in 2017 advancing policies in the Texas Legislature to ensure rural Texans will continue to reap the benefits of high-quality communications to support schools, hospitals, businesses and consumers. Rural networks are vital to our great state and provide a backbone for landline, broadband and wireless services statewide. The passage by the Texas Legislature of Senate Bill 586 laid the groundwork to make sure rural telecommunications companies will have the financial support they need to maintain and upgrade their networks as we move forward in this constantly evolving industry.
 
As we look forward to 2018, our work is not done. The next crucial step is the completion of the rulemaking at the Public Utility Commission of Texas to implement SB 586. A working group that includes staff from TTA and the Texas Statewide Telephone Cooperative, Inc. (TSTCI) along with TTA attorneys, consultants and individual company executives and accountants have spent countless hours preparing a proposed rule, a proposed filing form and details for the filing package. The information itself, as well as the approach behind our proposal, has been vetted with the PUC staff on multiple occasions and the discussions have been very informational and fruitful.
 
On January 15, the TTA-TSTCI working group presented a detailed overview of the documentation we will be filing in the upcoming rulemaking proceeding to the executives from the combined ILEC membership of both associations along with their accountants, legal and consulting representatives. The rulemaking has been docketed as No. 47669 at the Texas PUC. We and other interested parties will file comments on the rulemaking no later than February 6. A workshop to discuss the comments filed by all parties will be held at the commission on February 27.
 
Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this effort. We will be filing a very comprehensive proposal that meets the need of our membership and the objectives of the PUC. I am very optimistic that we will have a successful outcome from the rulemaking. 
Association News
Legislative Upd ate – John Hubbard and Ian Randolph
We are now just under a year away from the start of the 86th Legislature and here are some updates on developments in Austin.

Looking back at 2017, we saw the surprise announcement of Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, announcing his retirement from the Texas Legislature. The announcement came as a surprise as the speaker had previously unequivocally stated that he intended to run for reelection to the House and to seek a historic sixth term as speaker.
 
So far, two state representatives have announced their intention to run for speaker. State Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, and Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, have filed the requisite paperwork with the Texas Ethics Commission.
 
King is an 18-year veteran of the Legislature and comes from a law enforcement background. Interestingly, King made his announcement prior to Straus announcing his retirement and is therefore seen as a potential rally candidate for those members who were opposed to Straus.
 
Zerwas is a 10-year veteran of the Legislature and is a physician. He was chair of the House Appropriations Committee under Straus in the 2017 session and is a potential rally candidate for those who supported Straus.
 
Several other House members have expressed an interest in running for speaker, officially or unofficially, but have taken no action. These include: Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, and Four Price, R-Amarillo. Don’t be surprised if other candidates emerge as the year unfolds. Another point worth watching is whether the next speaker will be chosen by the by the 94-member Republican Caucus or from a coalition of Republicans and Democrats. We will continue to keep an eye on the speakers race through the start of next session.
 
In addition, a number of other legislators have announced they intend to retire or seek another office. Chief among these is Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, chairman of the House Committee on State Affairs, which oversees telecommunications issues. Cook was critical in his support for our Senate Bill 586, which ensures our continued access to funds from the Texas Universal Service Fund and his departure is a big loss for our issue. Others include:
 
  • Rep. Cindy Burkett, R-Sunnyvale, is running for Sen. Bob Hall’s seat in the Texas Senate.
  • Rep. Norma Chavez, D-El Paso is running for Congress.
  • Rep. Pat Fallon, R- Frisco, is running for Sen. Craig Estes’ seat in the Texas Senate.
  • Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Terrell, is running for Congress.
  • Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, is running for Congress.
  • Retiring House members include Rep Helen Giddings, D- Desoto; Rep. Larry Gonzalez, R-Round Rock; Rep. Mark Keough, R-The Woodlands; Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa; Rep. Jody Laubenberg, R-Parker; Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman; Rep. Kevin Roberts, R-Houston; and Rep. Leighton Shubert, R-Caldwell.
 
Two members of the Texas Senate – state Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, and Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston – also have announced they intend to run for the U.S. House of Representatives.
 
Election season is now in full swing with the Texas primary elections set for Tuesday March 6. Early voting begins on February 20. One race of interest to TTA members involves Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth. Geren, chairman of the Committee on House Administration, was the House sponsor of Senate Bill 586. Chairman Geren is facing opposition in both the Republican Primary and in November’s general election. Geren is a true champion for rural Texas. But as a trusted lieutenant to outgoing Speaker Straus, he may have a large target on him.
 
While political issues have been at the forefront, there have been some policy-related issues pending. Of interest, the House State Affairs Committee has received an interim charge to “examine the use of television white space and other technologies to expand broadband access to areas with no access or limited access.” 
 
We will keep you updated on issues in Austin as they arise. Please feel free to get in touch with any questions, concerns or political intelligence you think may be useful in our efforts in the Texas Legislature.
TCEI-EXPO set for April 3-5
Texas Communications Expo, Inc. is inviting TTA 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 EXPO, please visit www.tcei-expo.com .
TTA Foundation accepting applications for 2018 scholarships
The Texas Telephone Association Foundation is now accepting applications for 2018 scholarships.
 
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. The deadline to submit applications is March 30. A link to the scholarship application can be found here .
Save the date – TTA Convention and Product Showcase set for Sept. 9-12
Mark your calendars. The 2018 TTA Convention and Product Showcase is scheduled for Sept. 9-12 at Horseshoe Bay Resort. Look for details soon.
2018 dues
Thanks to everybody who has paid their 2018 dues. Your dues help us pay for programs to support the telecommunications industry in Texas. If you haven’t paid your dues already, 2018 dues are due. If you have any questions about this, please contact JoAnn Kamerman at joannkam@tta.org or 512-472-1186.
In the State
Changes at the Texas PUC
As we move into 2018, we will see some changes at the Public Utility Commission of Texas.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last fall appointed two new members and a new chair for the commission. In addition, PUC executive director Brian Lloyd announced in early January he would resign effective March 1.
The governor in fall 2017 appointed DeAnn Walker of Austin and Arthur D’Andrea of Austin to the three-member commission that regulates telecommunications, electric, water and sewer services.
The governor also named Walker, who had served as a top advisor to Abbott on regulated industries, to chair the commission.
Walker previously serviced as director of regulatory affairs and associate general counsel for CenterPoint Energy, where she served for 15 years.
D’Andrea served as an assistant general counsel for governor. He also previously served as an assistant solicitor general for the Office of the Attorney General of Texas.
Lloyd, in a letter to staff, said his departure would ensure a smooth transition to a new director and allow the commissioners “sufficient time to be deliberate in considering the applicants they will have for this position.”
New changes at Eastex Telephone Cooperative, Inc.
Wes Robinson, Dee Dee Longenecker and Tanner Hamann, formerly consultants with JSI, have taken on new roles with Eastex Telephone Cooperative, Inc.
Wes Robinson joins Eastex as Director of Regulatory Affairs. Dee Dee Longenecker I is Eastex’s new Director of Business Development, and Tanner Hamann has joined Eastex’s financial team as an analyst.
YK Communications Controller John Shutt retiring, Kirby Kacer to serve as new controller
YK Communications announced controller John Shutt is retiring and Kirby Kacer assumed the post effective Jan. 1.
“John Shutt has been an incredible asset to our company and we look forward to him continuing to work with us on special projects,” said Russell Kacer, president at YK Communications. “We are excited to see Kirby grow in his new role as controller at YK Communications.”
A copy of the YK Communications news release on the changes can be found here .
In the News
Big Bend Telephone: Big Bend Telephone Helps with Presidio Playground
Big Bend Telephone and AEP Texas helped the City of Presidio public works dig 91 pier holes for the new playground. The playground is located next to the Presidio Swimming Pool. Read more .

YK Communications: The Importance of Local Telecommunications Companies in Rural Communities
Rural communities are often served by small local telecommunications companies, rather than large corporate brands. These local businesses have their finger on the proverbial pulse of the community and its needs. Read more.

Put broadband first for rural Americans
At the American Farm Bureau convention on Monday, Jan. 8,  President Trump   sent  his clearest signal yet that his administration is prioritizing rural Americans and their access to broadband connectivity, ensuring they don’t get left behind in the accelerating transition to a global, digital economy.
In his remarks, the president touted a  new report  from the U.S. Department of Agriculture which outlines key pillars — from workforce and economic development to improved quality-of-life — that promote the prosperity of our rural communities. Read more .

FCC's Pai Proposes Freeing Up $500M for Rural Broadband
FCC chair Ajit Pai said Tuesday (Jan. 16) that he has circulated an order that would provide $500 million dollars in added funding for broadband deployment to rural and smaller carriers.
That comes as both the  White House  and  Congressional Republicans  have outlined plans, and actions, to close the rural digital divide, something Pai has made a priority. Read more.

Big Tech to Join Legal Fight Against Net Neutrality Repeal
WASHINGTON — An industry group that represents the country’s biggest technology companies said on Friday that it planned to join a looming legal fight against the Federal Communications Commission over its repeal of so-called net neutrality rules . Read more.

States Propose Bills to Preserve Net Neutrality
The next stage in the battle over regulating the internet could take the form of a legal showdown between states and the federal government. A growing number of Democratic state legislators are proposing bills to preserve net neutrality rules within their borders, following the Republican-led Federal Communications Commission's vote to repeal the protections last month. Read more.

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