This week I had the pleasure of traveling home to South Carolina to deliver remarks at the Rural Cellular Association’s Business and Technical Conference. When I heard RCA wanted me to drop by, I was honored, naturally, but when I saw that this event was being held in South Carolina, I realized that they are excellent planners, too. This is not just because the Palmetto State is home to me, but also because South Carolina, with its rural communities and economic struggles, is a good example of the challenges this Commission must address if it really wants to meet the National Broadband Plan’s goal of promoting world-leading mobile broadband infrastructure. South Carolina is also a great example of the challenges facing the 90 or so wireless service providers, all members of RCA, who are trying to bring the benefits of advanced mobile voice and data services to all parts of rural America.
My remarks before RCA's membership highlighted the number of actions this Commission has taken, in the past year or so, to promote the deployment of more advanced mobile services to rural consumers. These actions include the declaratory ruling in November 2009, which established timeframes for processing tower siting applications, the Roaming Report and Order, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Notice of Inquiry to remove regulatory barriers to greater use of microwave services for wireless backhaul, and the Mobility Fund Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that we adopted today. I also took this opportunity to compliment one of RCA’s member companies, U.S. Cellular, for implementing its “Belief Project.” U.S. Cellular conducted a survey of its customers and found that 90 percent of them believe that wireless providers should earn their loyalty, and a vast majority of U.S. Cellular’s customers also said that service providers should not require loyalty by forcing consumers to sign two-year contracts. U.S. Cellular decided to listen to its customers and eliminate early termination fees for U.S. Cellular consumers after their initial two year contract. In my opinion, this project is a major step forward for wireless customers, and I hope it will encourage other large carriers to follow a similar course.
After giving my remarks, I enjoyed the networking events RCA sponsored that evening. I greatly appreciated how warmly the RCA members welcomed me and the good humor they shared with me. The gathering that Quality One Wireless held to introduce one of its new handsets was particularly enjoyable. Unfortunately, my time at the RCA conference was too short, as I had to leave the conference early so that I could travel back for the FCC Open Meeting today.