January 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
Happy New Year and looking ahead to 2020
Happy New Year to everyone. As we look back at 2019 and ahead to 2020, this is an exciting time to be working in the telecommunications industry.

The TTA membership last fall elected a new board of directors and the board has been
energetically working on planning for the future.

Just as our industry is evolving, so is the Texas Telephone Association. The TTA executive committee and the board are actively working through plans for 2020 and beyond.

I want to thank all of you for your hard work in 2019 to advance policies to make sure the Texas telecommunications industry remains a strong force in the state economy and Texans will continue to reap the benefits of high-quality communications to support schools, hospitals, businesses and consumers.

As we look ahead, there remain some challenges and opportunities on the horizon.

The TTA team has been working with the staff at the Public Utility Commission of Texas to make sure the Texas universal service fund remains viable going forward.

The passage by the Texas Legislature of SB 586 in 2017 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. We still have more work to do on USF and there are several cases pending at the PUC related to SB 586.

At the same time, we are engaged with Connected Nation to make sure rural parts of Texas have access to as robust broadband as is economically feasible.

Rural networks are vital to our great state and provide a backbone for landline, wireless, and broadband services statewide. Still, telecommunications and technology continue to evolve.

As we start a new decade, I look forward to the start of new things to come.
The Texas Telephone Association board is excited about the future of our industry and the association going forward.
Around the Texas Capitol – John Hubbard and Ian Randolph
Texas interim legislative committees coming into focus
Happy New Year. The holiday season is over and work at the Texas Capitol is speeding up. 

With the 87th Legislature set to convene just under a year away on Tuesday January 12, 2021, a sense of urgency is building. 

In 2020 before next session, there will be primary elections, a general election and hundreds of hours of interim committee meetings. When you consider that early bill filing will begin in November and it takes time for bills to be prepared and drafted, the clock is ticking.

Each interim between legislative sessions, the leaders of each chamber instruct their respective committees to research and investigate specific issues of interest and to monitor implementation of certain bills passed during the previous legislative session and to gather information for future legislation. The lieutenant governor and speaker of the House of Representatives also can create special committees to investigate issues of special interest to the leadership. The committees then issue reports to the leadership before the start of the next legislative session.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in October issued hundreds of interim charges to 13 standing committees and created select committees on mass violence prevention and community safety; redistricting; and Texas ports. 

Of interest to the telecommunications industry is the charge to the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce to monitor the implementation and make recommendations on improving SB14, relating to broadband service or facilities provided by an electric cooperative that the Legislature approved in 2019. There are a number of other interim issues we will be following, including charges on information technology, network nodes in public rights-of-way, state agency technology, performance based contracting, business personal property tax, rural health and telemedicine, facility needs for higher education and how state agencies distribute personal data.

In addition, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen in November issued 49 pages of House committee interim charges to all standing committees while also creating select committees on driver’s license issuance and renewal; on mass violence prevention and community safety; statewide health care costs; and aggregate production operations.

The House Committee on State Affairs has been charged with monitoring all the rural broadband bills including “SB 14, HB 1960 and HB 2422, which relate to broadband services provided by electric cooperatives. Monitor the implementation of the legislation, including the status of rural electric cooperatives deploying broadband fiber in underserved areas. Monitor the efforts of the Texas Department of Transportation in executing state coordination of certain broadband development projects in rural areas.”  

House State Affairs will have their first hearing on SB14 and HB 2422 on January 30.

Among other interim committee action we will be monitoring in the House are charges related to information technology and cybersecurity improvements at state agencies: disclosure of data breaches: the hardening of utilities and public infrastructure: improvements to emergency communications: a revamped emergency service fee to upgrade 911 communications; telemedicine and telehealth services: the use of municipal fees from telecommunications and cable or video service providers; and cybersecurity needs of local governments.

No question, there is work ahead on important issues facing the telecommunications industry before next session of the Legislature. Let us know if you need any additional information.
Association News
TTA board of directors elect new officers
Members of the Texas Telephone Association board of directors have elected new officers to serve on the 2019-2020 executive committee.

TTA has been the primary trade organization representing the Texas telecommunications industry since 1905 and is one of the oldest associations in the state of Texas. Officers serving as TTA’s executive committee for one-year terms include:
  • President – Russell “Rusty” Moore, general manager and chief operating officer of BBT, based in Alpine.
  • Vice President – Charlie Greenberg, president of Btel, based in Brazoria.
  • Secretary – Jennifer Otwell, vice president and general manager of Totelcom Communications, based in De Leon.
  • Treasurer – Dave Osborn, CEO of VTX1 Companies, based in Raymondville.

The TTA member companies in late 2019 elected a new nine-member board of directors.
TTA board of directors
New Texas Telephone Association board of directors: front row, from left to right: Jennifer Otwell (Totelcom), Amy Linzey (West Texas Rural Telephone Cooperative Inc. ), Steven Steele (Peoples Telephone Cooperative)
Rear row, from left to right: Rusty Dorman (Eastex Telephone Cooperative Inc. ), Dave Osborn (VTX1 Companies), Russell “Rusty’’ Moore (BBT), Charlie Cano (Etex Telephone Cooperative), Charlie Greenberg (Btel), Jamey Wigley ( Central Texas Telephone Cooperative)
2020 TTA Convention and Product Showcase set for August 16-19
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
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott appoints 15 to Governor’s Broadband Development Council
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has appointed 15 to the newly created Governor’s Broadband Development Council, including former Texas Telephone Association board member Kirk Petty of Santa Rosa Telephone Cooperative, Inc.

Petty, a 40-year veteran of the telecommunications industry, will serve on the council created by the Texas Legislature in 2019 with the passage of HB 1960, sponsored by Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, and Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock. The council is responsible for researching the progress of broadband development in unserved and underserved areas and identifying barriers and solutions to residential and commercial access to broadband in Texas.

Broadband development council member terms will expire on August 31, 2024, according to a  news release from Abbott.

“How do you get broadband out there? That is one of the primary questions that will have to be answered,’’ Petty said. “The availability of broadband is vital to the future of Texas for economic development – to attract businesses or businesspeople who want to work from home in these rural areas.”
In the News
VERNON, Texas (TNN) - The News Channel 6 City Guide is a segment that shines a spotlight on local businesses, events, and nonprofits across Texoma. This episode, we’re taking a closer look at Santa Rosa Communications. They provide telephone, internet, video services, and business products to customers across north Texas and southern Oklahoma. Read more.

Before Shani Hays began providing tech support for Apple from her home, in McKee, Kentucky, she worked at a prison as a corrections officer assigned to male sex offenders, making nine dollars an hour. After less than a year, she switched to working nights on an assembly line at a car-parts factory, where she felt safer. More recently, Hays, who is fifty-four, was an aide at a nursing home, putting in a full workweek in a single weekend and driving eighty-five miles to get there. Then her son-in-law, who was married to Hays’s oldest daughter, got addicted to crystal meth and became physically abusive. Hays’s daughter started using, too. The son-in-law went to jail. Their kids were placed in foster care. Then Hays’s stepmother got cancer. “There was a lot going on,” Hays told me. “I was just trying to keep it all together.” She began working from home last summer, which has allowed her to gain custody of her three grandchildren. (Her daughter has since completed treatment for her addiction.) During Hays’s half-hour lunch break, she makes supper. “I wouldn’t be able to do this without the Internet we have here,” she said. Read more.

The major broadband associations have gotten to together to add heft to the bone they have to pick with the FCC over the way it has structured its new Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) subsidy process, one they warn could discourage participation and drain $1 billion from broadband buildouts to banks and other lending institutions. The FCC approved the auction last summer, but not the final rules for how it would be conducted. The FCC  plans to vote on final rules for the $20.4 billion fund Jan. 30.  Read more.

California, Texas and Michigan would benefit most from the Federal Communications Commission’s $20.4 billion  Rural Digital Opportunity Fund  over the next decade, according to a breakdown released. The FCC said that the new fund, which is expected to serve 6 million homes and businesses nationwide, will be dispersed in two phases, starting with a $16 billion round that will distributed through a reverse auction beginning in 2021. According to the  FCC’s analysis , the first phase will bring high-speed internet to approximately 421,000 homes and businesses in California, 381,000 in Texas and 286,000 in Michigan. Read more.

The Walker County Broadband Committee just launched a new effort to identify solutions for expanding and improving access to broadband (high-speed internet) across the county. The committee, made up of local leaders and stakeholders, is working with Connected Nation Texas (CN Texas) to develop a Technology Action Plan for the entire area—and they’re asking for your help. Read more.

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