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Heading Back to Kansas

by: Ajit Pai, FCC Commissioner

September 4, 2012 - 11:51 AM

There's no place like home.

I grew up in the great state of Kansas. When I was four years old, my family moved to Parsons, a small town of about 10,000 people in the southeastern corner of the state. My parents and many childhood friends still live there, and it's always a pleasure to visit. It is an area of the country that I care deeply about.

I'm therefore happy to report that I'll be heading back to the Sunflower State this week-for the first time in my capacity as a Commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)-to meet with a wide range of Kansans to talk about communications policy, technology, and rural deployment, and how they are helping to transform our way of life. Given the rapid transition to high-speed broadband networks and services globally, we are at a critical crossroads as regulators. It is important that the FCC work to remove barriers to investment and innovation and help unleash a wave of economic growth and job creation all across the country.

As I stated in my congressional testimony during my confirmation hearing, the world of communications was much less advanced when I was growing up. We made long-distance calls using a bulky phone connected to the wall by a thick wire, and our "data" connections to the outside world, such as they were, consisted primarily of analog video and local newspapers. In order to see how far we've come since then and where we still can improve, I'll visit a number of towns nestled in the southeast corner of the state.

Specifically, I'll be speaking with a variety of citizens in Oswego about the importance of rural broadband. I'll also have the privilege of participating in a roundtable discussion with rural telecommunications companies in Parsons, my hometown. I expect that reforms of the Universal Service Fund and ways to accelerate rural broadband deployment will be major topics of discussion during both of these meetings.

Additionally, I will have the honor of addressing the Parsons Rotary Club (of which my father was a member), the debate team at Parsons High School, and the student body at Oswego High School. With each group, I hope to share my views on how the FCC can enable the private sector to better serve small-town businesses, health care facilities and students.

The issue of broadband deployment also will take me to Kansas City. Google may be a relatively old company by Silicon Valley standards, but it's a recent entrant to the Kansas City market. Its Google Fiber project represents an innovative approach to broadband Internet network deployment. I'm looking forward to learning more about technical details regarding the project's infrastructure; how state and local regulatory streamlining helped to facilitate quicker construction of the network; and how consumers are responding to the offering thus far. Hopefully, there are lessons to be learned from the project that can be applied in other markets across the country, big and small.

I'm especially pleased that I'll be joined at some of these events by U.S. Senator Jerry Moran. Senator Moran kindly introduced me to the members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation late last year during my confirmation hearing. He has shown tremendous leadership on technology issues and economic growth initiatives. For instance, he recently helped propel the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act) toward passage and enactment. The JOBS Act aims to enhance job creation and growth by improving emerging companies' access to public capital. More recently, Senator Moran and Senator Mark Warner introduced the Startup Act, which seeks to build on the JOBS Act by harnessing entrepreneurial talent, establishing pro-growth policies, encouraging investment in startups, and accelerating innovation in research institutions. Senator Moran and I will hear perspectives on the communications industry and economic growth from several local businesses and the Pittsburg Chamber of Commerce. While in Pittsburg, I also will visit with a group of broadcasters from the Pittsburg-Joplin market and tour two broadcast stations. I am particularly interested in learning more about the role that broadcasters played in responding to the tornado that devastated Joplin in May 2011.

I'll report back soon.

Updated: September 4, 2012 - 04:37 PM
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