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At annual meeting, NDATC members prepare for new lawmaking

NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfied (second from right) brought perspectives on prospects for the new Congress and new presidency to the NDATC meeting. Among those welcoming her to the meeting were, from left: Matt Erhardt Jr., president, NDATC (representing West River Telecom, Hazen); David Crothers, NDATC general manager; and Paul Schuetzler, general manager, Consolidated Telcom, Dickinson.

NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfied (second from right) brought perspectives on prospects for the new Congress and new presidency to the NDATC meeting. Among those welcoming her to the meeting were, from left: Matt Erhardt Jr., president, NDATC (representing West River Telecom, Hazen); David Crothers, NDATC general manager; and Paul Schuetzler, general manager, Consolidated Telcom, Dickinson.

For the 63rd annual meeting of the North Dakota Association of Telecommunications Cooperatives (NDATC), national rural telecommunications leader, Shirley Bloomfield, told the NDATC membership to continue to exert their influence on public policy. Bloomfield serves as CEO of NCTA - The Rural Broadband Association.

“We have an unprecedented time in Washington, D.C., right now,” Bloomfield said, adding that rural America priorities and values helped produce the unexpected elevation of Donald Trump to the presidency. “It was the rural vote that helped bring the Trump Administration to power, so, now, how do we harness that power you wielded and translate that into good public policy on behalf of the communities you serve?” she said.

Bloomfield said the combination of the Republican Trump administration, with a Republican Party-controlled Congress, appears to be a signal that federal regulations will be examined and likely scaled back. She said NTCA will be paying attention to these trends, and in particular to how recent Federal Communications Commission regulation affecting broadband commerce will be treated by Congress.

“A lot of the regulatory reform will fall back on Congress. And that is where all of you have a lot more power, working with your Congressional delegation, with your activism - that's going to be good for us,” Bloomfield said.

Bloomfield said, while a close look at Trump campaign positions reveal nothing specific about telecommunications policy, his campaign emphasis on revitalizing infrastructure has the attention of NTCA.

“President-elect Trump has talked a lot about infrastructure, and having an infrastructure plan,” Bloomfield said. She added he has spoken of traditional infrastructure components – highways, roads, bridges – and she indicates NTCA will be communicating the need to expand that frame of reference.

“Our job will be to convince the Trump Administration that telecommunications and broadband deployment is infrastructure, our 21st century infrastructure,” Bloomfield said.

Crothers: rural voice will be heard

In his report to the membership, NDATC General Manager David Crothers recapped activities of 2016 and helped the NDATC member focus on the challenges a new state Legislature, new Congress and new president present.

“By all measures, 2016 has been a successful year for the association,” Crothers said, adding that NDATC priorities have been achieved in interim committee work the North Dakota Legislature has been doing over the last year and a half.

Crothers said he and leaders from NDATC member cooperatives maintain good working relationships with the North Dakota Congressional delegation, adding that Sen. John Hoeven, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and Congressman Kevin Cramer are excellent advocates for policy positions of importance to NDATC. 

Crothers said even though priorities and plans of the newly constituted Congress, and new presidential administration are, at this point, difficult to discern, the rural telecommunications community will be ready to receive and react constructively to new proposals.  

“Our commitment is we will make sure that your voice is heard as we move forward into these new times,” he said.