From The Executive Director – March 2016

Posted: March 22, 2016
Levoy Knowles, TTA Executive Director
Levoy Knowles, TTA Executive Director

It’s tough to describe the scene at the Legislative Plaza in Nashville when our elected legislators are in session. It’s a frenetic mix of committee meetings, subcommittee meetings, appointments, and important votes. Everywhere you look lawmakers, staffers, lobbyists and citizens are talking purposefully as they hustle from one stop to another. At times, it seems to almost hum with activity.

It’s an intimidating place, but that didn’t stop about a dozen TTA member executives from visiting Capitol Hill on March 1 to tell the story of independent telecommunications companies in our great state. And at least for now, the spread of municipal broadband has been stopped, thanks in part to those representatives who attended the Day on the Hill. Thank you to all who participated!

The TTA Day On The Hill has become an important day on the TTA calendar. It’s an opportunity for our members to make sure policymakers understand how their decisions affect our companies and our customers. At this year’s TTA Legislative Day on the Hill, we scheduled meetings with 22 legislators, three of whom sit on the subcommittee that recently voted down this year’s municipal broadband bill.  That was a significant, if temporary, roadblock for government agencies seeking to compete against private business. The bill would have allowed electric providers to overbuild existing broadband networks to anyone they deemed as underserved. As I’ve stated before, TTA believes strongly in the importance of bringing broadband access to all Tennesseans, and in some areas, municipal networks may be the only way to do that. However, TTA is strongly opposed to large, tax-payer funded agencies overbuilding the networks our members have invested in building.

I truly believe that the work groups like TTA and NTCA do are essential to our industry, and meetings like the Day on the Hill are an important part of that work. Again, thank you to all of those who attended.

It’s rewarding for me to see these relationships we’ve built with our legislators grow. When our delegation went into the lawmakers’ offices, they knew who we were, who we represent and who are customers are.

I’m proud to say we’ve made significant inroads with policy makers — but our work is not done. Those who want to see the government  compete against private companies like those of TTA members will be back next year. With help from members, TTA will work hard to make sure legislators hear the voice of independent telcos on this and other issues.