Podcast focuses on importance of rural connectivity with Shirley Bloomfield
Shirley Bloomfield, chief executive officer of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, was a recent guest on the podcast “Lead Tennessee Radio.” The show is produced by the Tennessee Broadband Association.
In this episode, Bloomfield discussed federal broadband legislation and efforts to keep rural America connected through the ongoing pandemic and beyond.
“We know we have millions of Americans who are not connected,” she said. “I look at the state of Tennessee and I think the folks there are so lucky to have so many community-based providers who have stepped up to the plate to serve their communities with future technology. We don’t see that everywhere across the country.”
Bloomfield discussed with Levoy Knowles, TNBA executive director and host of the podcast, three bills NTCA is supporting in Washington and how they will benefit rural broadband providers and consumers.
One of those, the Keep Critical Connections Act, compensates providers that adopted the Federal Communications Commission pledge not to disrupt services for nonpayment during the global pandemic.
All TNBA member companies pledged to keep their customers connected.
“Kudos to all the providers in Tennessee,” Bloomfield said. “Obviously your folks were some of the first to step up to serve their communities, and we were certainly not surprised to see that. We have never been more proud than we are right now to represent you.”
Another law supported by NTCA is the Rural Connectivity Advancement Program Act, which earmarks funds to address the rural technology gap. The law would divert funds from spectrum auctions for rural broadband construction, Bloomfield said.
A third piece of legislation NTCA supports is the Flexible Financing for Rural America Act, which calls for debt relief and refinancing for utility providers. The bill has bipartisan support and would allow providers to refinance RUS loans at reasonable rates while freeing cash to continue meeting demands of rural customers.
“It just seems to make sense,” Bloomfield said. “We are in an election year, which means time is super short in terms of what Congress can get passed and signed into law. But this is one piece that is a no-brainer for everybody.”
The “Lead Tennessee Radio” podcast is an opportunity to discuss issues facing Tennessee with state leaders and lawmakers. Past episodes feature House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville; Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge; House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland; Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin; and many more.
“The cooperative and independent telecommunications companies who comprise the TNBA are working hard to ensure that everyone in rural Tennessee has access to this life-changing technology,” said Knowles. “This podcast is a great opportunity to have conversations with state and industry leaders who are on the front lines working for a connected Tennessee.”
“Lead Tennessee Radio” can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Play, as well as at tennesseebroadband.com.