I traveled out to the heartland of the country for a two-city tour over the last few days. My first stop was in Kansas City at the Mid-American Regulatory Conference (MARC). MARC is a regional organization of utility and energy regulatory agencies from 15 states.
I am well-acquainted with many of the good folks here, as I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with a number of them during my days as a Commissioner on the South Carolina Public Service Commission. On Monday night, I had the opportunity to attend the President’s Banquet, where I met Dr. Thomas Hoenig, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, as well as Missouri Public Service Commissioners Jeff Davis and Robert Kenny, and their wives. Dr. Hoenig, the evening’s keynote speaker, offered some insight into the risky behavior and other factors that caused the recent international economic crisis. Despite the downturn, he argued that there is reason for optimism as a number of signals already suggest that the economy is recovering.
My number was called Tuesday, as I addressed the general session  with a look at the National Broadband Plan’s recommendations to reform the Universal Service Fund as well as other policies to deploy broadband in hard to serve areas. Universal service will be a major focus for the Commission over the next couple of years (and beyond). It is one of the most important and significant items on our ambitious agenda.
The question and answer session that followed my talk was lively. Many audience members were particularly interested in the Plan’s recommendation for a unified intercarrier compensation rate (as opposed to the traditional cost-based rate). One conference attendee made a passionate plea for the Commission to keep in mind the important differences between densely populated, compact, urban areas and sparsely populated, large rural areas.
Following the morning session, I had the opportunity to pay a visit to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum , one of Kansas City’s great treasures. This was a fascinating voyage through one of the most trying and triumphant times in the history of sports. The eventual integration of major league baseball demonstrated the value of inclusiveness and diversity. An important lesson for any industry.