December 2019
News and Updates
Here is some telecommunications industry news in Texas and across the nation. View as Webpage
Update from Executive Director Lyn Kamerman
Looking back at 2019 and farewell
After 13 years with the Texas Telephone Association, I’m moving on.

As I move to my next adventure in retirement, my tenure at TTA has been an incredible experience. I have had the opportunity to witness the positive impact our industry has had on the Texas communities we serve.
As the holidays are upon us and 2019 winding to a close, we have plenty to be proud of.
I’m proud TTA is more visible and is serving as a strong advocate for the Texas telecommunications industry.

From a busy regular session of the 2019 Texas Legislature to key proceedings at the Public Utility Commission of Texas, the state’s telecommunications industry had a strong year as member companies worked together to advance policies for a strong industry.

From legislation on rural broadband to key universal service fund regulatory proceedings, we put our best foot forward to benefit the industry.

At the same time, after overwhelming support from TTA members, I was surprised that association merger efforts fell short. However, I am thrilled to see the renewed support and enthusiasm of TTA member companies – and with the new companies we have gained as membership continues to grow – I am confident that TTA will continue to be the leading voice on telecommunications issues now and in the future. 

The TTA team is continuing to work on Texas universal service fund issues at the Texas PUC including filings related to the reforms we achieved with SB 586. That legislation, approved by the Legislature in 2017, was a signature event for TTA and an achievement that I will always be extremely proud of. The TTA team – including Dennis Donley, Wes Robinson, Scott Stringer, Ian Randolph and John Hubbard – was relentless in their efforts to achieve our goal.

The TTA team will continue to advocate for policies to support a strong industry while making sure rural Texans will continue to reap the benefits of high-quality communications to support schools, hospitals, businesses and consumers while rural telecommunications companies will have the capital they need to maintain and upgrade their networks.

Looking ahead, this is an exciting time for TTA. We have adopted new bylaws and our membership recently elected a new board of directors. They have already planned a meeting in Austin in January to kickstart the new year.

The new TTA board includes Charlie Greenberg, president of Btel; Russell “Rusty” Moore, general manager and chief operating officer of BBT: Steven Steele, CEO and general manager of Peoples Telephone Cooperative: Amy Linzey, chief executive officer of West Texas Rural Telephone Cooperative Inc.: Jamey Wigley, general manager of Central Texas Telephone Cooperative: Jennifer Otwell, vice president and general manager of Totelcom Communications; Charlie Cano, general manager and chief executive officer of Etex Telephone Cooperative; Dave Osborn, chief executive officer of VTX1 Companies; and Rusty Dorman, general manager of Eastex Telephone Cooperative Inc.

Many thanks to our current and past TTA board members. We appreciate their tireless work and dedication to the association and the industry.
After working in the telecommunications industry for decades, I continue to marvel how quickly technology is changing and I look forward to more changes on the horizon. I t truly has been a privilege to have known and worked with so many creative and inspiring people over the years.  

Although I’m saying goodbye as executive director of TTA, I won’t be far. Drop me a line sometime.
Happy holidays.
Around the Texas Capitol – John Hubbard and Ian Randolph
Looking back at a successful year in the Texas Legislature
It’s December and cold weather is settling in Texas.

Before we say goodbye to 2019 we want to look back at TTA’s accomplishments in a highly successful legislative year.

We entered this session of the Legislature prepared that some key issues would be debated impacting the telecommunications industry. Like any session, there are issues you can plan for and there are issues that bubble up – sometimes out of nowhere – that require a rapid response. This session was no different.

We entered the 2019 session of the Texas Legislature in January with a new group, Glasshouse Policy, working to use a crowdsourcing approach to address what it perceived as shortcomings in rural broadband access in Texas. In advance of the legislative session we had monitored and participated in the Glasshouse legislative initiative development and anticipated Glasshouse would advance bills on rural broadband.

One bill was HB 1960, by Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, that established a 17 member rural broadband council appointed by the governor to examine and advise to drive broadband connectivity in rural Texas. After discussions with Price, we were successfully made sure that that two members of the council appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott would include representation from rural Internet service providers. Currently, representatives from TTA member companies are under consideration to be appointed to the council.

HB 2422, sponsored by Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson, R-Waco, requires the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to provide notice on TxDOT's website of ongoing and planned highway construction projects that will provide joint trenching opportunities for broadband providers in the state's right-of-way. TxDOT is currently developing rules for this new law and we will be monitoring that rulemaking to help ensure a successful implementation of the bill for the telecommunications industry.

While we were aware of the Glasshouse initiatives, other important bills were introduced that we did not have much notice. For example, SB 14, sponsored by Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, deals with electric cooperatives running high-speed fiber networks in electric easements and occupied so much of our time during the session. When the bill was introduced in early February, it contained several provisions that provided the electric co-ops with significant competitive advantages. However, over the course of the session we were able to work with state lawmakers to whittle away at the bill to secure a more level playing field for players providing high-speed Internet broadband services.

When you are dealing with the legislative process, you don’t always get everything you want, and you don’t get what you want the first time you ask.

Throughout the legislative session, the TTA team and member companies worked hard to as an active voice for our industry. At the same time, we worked with the Legislature to make Texas safer. We worked with key leaders in the Legislature to secure approval of the To Inform Families First (TIFF) bill, SB 1764 . This new law instructs the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to enable Texas consumers to update their emergency contact information online on state issued IDs. We were worked closely with Price, the chair of the powerful House Calendars Committee, as our primary author along with Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo. The bill was approved overwhelmingly by both the Senate and Texas House of Representatives and will go into effect January 1.

We want to thank each and every TTA member for your hard work supporting the association and the telecommunications industry under the Capitol dome. We are exceptionally proud to work with TTA and to fight for the rural telecommunications industry in Texas. We look forward to continuing that fight into 2020 and beyond.

Happy holidays.
Association News
Mark your calendars – 2020 TTA Convention and Product Showcase 
The 2020 TTA Convention is set for August 16-19 at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio.

Look for more details soon.
In the State and Around the Nation
New area code for Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex inching forward at Texas PUC
The staff of the Public Utility Commission of Texas has released a proposed order    to approve a petition by the North American Number Planning Administrator to add a new area code in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
The new area code would overlay existing area codes 214, 469, and 972 in Grayson, Denton, Colin, Hunt, Tarrant, Dallas, Rockwall, Kaufman, Johnson, Ellis and Hill counties.
The NANPA projects that the three existing area codes will run out of numbers by the second quarter of 2021.
Once approved, there will be a 13-month customer education process and network preparation period.
In the News
As the big name carriers all race to offer the first-of-its-kind 5G network, there’s a lot of buzz about the technology. Some policymakers talk as if 5G will replace rural internet. We’re here to dispel some myths and explain what this means for our customers and service areas. What is 5G? Read more.

FCC chair Ajit Pai says he plans to propose pulling the plug on the $4.5 billion Mobility Fund Phase II program and instead create a 5G Fund that would put up to $9 billion toward Universal Service Fund support for 5G mobile wireless in rural areas to help close the digital divide. He plans to circulate a notice of proposed rulemaking to that effect early next year, according to an FCC official speaking on background, Read more.

(Op-ed from Steven W. Pedigo, professor of practice at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and the inaugural director of the LBJ Urban Lab) We Texans have more than earned our bragging rights when it comes to our state’s economy. If Texas was a country, its $1.7 trillion economy would be the tenth largest in the world. Our statewide unemployment rate is just 3.4%, the lowest it has been since tracking began.  Chief Executive  magazine has ranked Texas “The Best State for Business” for 15 years running. Read more.

The trade war between China and the US has  centered largely on escalating tariffs . But in many rural communities, the focus has shifted to the security of networks for which Chinese giants Huawei and ZTE have long provided equipment. As the 5G future approaches, the US is pushing small carriers to rip out and replace whatever parts of their infrastructure come from China, no matter the cost. Read more.

Windstream Wholesale says that it has executed the largest agreement in its history for core transport. The client was termed “a major hyperscale” entity but was not identified in the press release. The capacity will enable the client to interconnect data centers in key cities in the United States, the company says. Read more.

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