February 2020
News and Updates
Here is some telecommunications industry news in Texas and across the nation. View as Webpage
President's Corner – Russell "Rusty'' Moore
TTA board hit the ground running in 2020
We are well into 2020 and much is happening in the Texas telecommunications industry.

The Texas Telephone Association board of directors hit the ground running in 2020 and has been meeting monthly to map out plans for the association going forward.

We have approved our budget for this year and established goals for the TTA Political Action Committee and the TTA Foundation.

The board’s search for a new executive director has begun. Stay tuned. At the same time, we are developing a new look and feel for TTA .

As we look ahead, we are keeping our eyes on the primary elections coming up in March.

The March 3 primary elections could have a tremendous impact on political and policy landscape in Texas and across the United States.

Texas is one of 15 states holding primary elections on so-called “Super Tuesday’’ when Texans will vote in primaries to select candidates for U.S. president and the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, the Texas Senate and Texas House of Representatives, the State Board of Education, the Railroad Commission of Texas, judicial seats and some local elections.

We encourage everyone to participate in the political process.

In addition, there are several issues impacting the state’s telecommunications industry pending at the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Federal Communications Commission.

The TTA team has been working closely with the Texas PUC staff to make sure the Texas universal service fund remains viable going forward in the face of projected shortfalls. In the fourth quarter of 2019 alone, there was a $22.7 million quarterly gap between income and expenditures and the Texas USF program may be heading toward a crisis that will require regulatory action.

Reforming USF contributions remains a political hot potato and we will work closely with our member companies and the Texas PUC staff as we move forward.

In addition, the TTA regulatory team is developing an Intrastate Access Services Tariff and is offering small local phone companies the opportunity to participate. If you have any questions on the issue, don’t hesitate to contact me or Wes Robinson , TTA regulatory chair.

Finally, the board has been working on plans for the TTA Convention and Product Showcase scheduled for August 16-19 at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio.

Look for more details soon.
Around the Texas Capitol – John Hubbard and Ian Randolph
Texas legislative interim committees in full swing
The year 2020 is well underway and as we are less than a year away from the start of the 2021 session of the Texas Legislature. Legislators are currently in full preparation mode in advance of next session.

Most notably those preparations included the House State Affairs Committee meeting on January 30 to look into the implementation of three telecommunications bills from last session: SB 14, HB 1960 and HB 2422. These bills dealt with electric cooperatives offering broadband service, the creation of the Governor’s Broadband Development Council and coordination by the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDoT) of right of way access during state transportation projects, respectively.

Chairman Dade Phelan, R-Orange, presided over the meeting, which was limited to testimony on the three new laws. On SB 14, the committee heard testimony from one witness: Mike Williamson testified on behalf of the Texas Electric Cooperatives. Williams testified that seven coops are already providing high-speed Internet broadband services and three are expected to provide broadband service in the near future.

Several House State Affairs committee members asked probing questions of Williams. Rep. Drew Springier, R-Muenster, and Rep. Bobby Guerra, D-McAllen, asked whether coops planned to offer service in areas that already have broadband service or in areas currently unserved. Williams testified that the cooperatives are targeting areas currently unserved.

Springer and Phelan asked about poll attachment fees and Williams responded the coops are committed to charging fair and reasonable poll attachment fees.

Rep. Justin Holland, R-Rockwall, asked about the possibility of cross-subsidization between the electric and broadband portions of an electric cooperative’s business. Williams responded coops were committed to not subsidizing their broadband service with electric revenue and are required under the legislation to keep separate books for the two services.

On HB 2422, the committee heard brief testimony from Kyle Madsen from the state Transportation Department. He said TXDoT is committed to providing information to telecommunications companies about projects affecting rights-of-way to make sure there is opportunity to access their rights-of-way as projects are planned and undertaken. He said the TXDoT website has a listing of projects TXDoT plans to undertake in the next 10 years.

Chair Phelan also provided an update on Gov. Greg Abbott’s appointments to the Governor’s Broadband Development Council, including the appointment of former TTA board member Kirk Petty of Santa Rosa Telephone Cooperative, Inc.. Phelan announced House Speaker Dennis Bonnen has appointed Rep. Ken King, R-Canadian, as his legislative appointment to the council. This was a surprise as the legislation was authored by Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, and traditionally bill authors serve on panels or committees created by their legislation.

With the interim committee activity shifting into high gear – including Senate and House of Representatives interim committees and the Governor’s Broadband Development Council – it is vital we make sure we are aware of and are providing the most relevant and up-to-date information. Please be sure to pass along any information you think could impact the implementation of these telecommunications bills or could affect the deliberations of the broadband council.

TTA is the leader in rural telecommunications policy in Texas and will continue to provide accurate and relevant information to policy makers. We rely on TTA member companies to make sure we are providing up-to-date information throughout the year to the Legislature and the new broadband development council.
Association News
2020 TTA Convention and Product Showcase set for August 16-19
The 2020 TTA Convention is scheduled for August 16-19 at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio.

Look for more details soon.
In the News
The percentage of end user phone bills that goes toward the Universal Service Fund has been climbing and there are serious questions about the sustainability of that funding mechanism, despite a relatively stable USF budget. It’s something Telecompetitor has warned about previously, and in this post, we offer some factual numbers to illustrate our concerns. Read more

Members of the  Texas Telephone Association  board of directors elected new officers to serve on the 2019-2020 executive committee.  Read more

Connected Nation Texas (CN Texas) just released its initial updated broadband (high-speed internet) coverage maps. These maps provide details on internet speeds and coverage for all 254 counties across the Lone Star State. Read more

U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) met with members of the Deep East Texas Council of Governments and Economic Development District (DETCOG) today to discuss important policy priorities for East Texans like rural broadband and the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Program, which provides crucial support for law enforcement, transportation infrastructure, and education in the counties that depend on revenue from federal forests.  Read more

Areas that receive broadband funding through the USDA ReConnect program or a state broadband program will not be eligible to receive funding through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). Read more

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officially established a new $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) to bring broadband to unserved areas of rural America. But two of the FCC commissioners expressed dissatisfaction with the process because they say the FCC’s broadband maps, which will determine where the funds get spent, are awful. And Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel claimed the FCC is rushing RDOF during an election year in what feels like a “publicity stunt.” Read more

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