HardyNet managers met with West Virginia senators and congressional representatives in Washington, D.C., in late April to discuss the impact of small telecommunications providers in delivering affordable broadband services in Hardy County.
Hardy General Manager Scott Sherman, Hardy Customer Service Director Tracey Ratliff and Hardy Corporate Counsel Jack Walters visited with staff members of U.S. Democratic Senators Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin and U.S. Republican Representatives Shelley Moore Capito and David McKinley. Scott said the purpose was to promote the importance of broadband for rural business development and growth and also the ways that broadband brings education, public safety, telemedicine and other opportunities to rural consumers.
“Rural America is the backbone of the United States in many areas, including agriculture and energy development,” he said. “Those of us who live in rural communities contribute a lot to the rest of the country, and we need to ensure that modern, affordable broadband is made available in our areas.”
Scott and Tracey highlighted the types of services it provides to businesses and consumers in Hardy County, as well as pointing to the number of jobs HardyNet provides in the county and other areas that contribute to the area’s economic development. HardyNet representatives urged West Virginia’s congressional delegates to help them continue to provide affordable broadband by ensuring that the Universal Service Fund (USF) and intercarrier compensation reforms do not deter future broadband investment in rural America and penalize small businesses that have already invested. The USF is collected through a charge on all telephone users throughout the United States and is designed to help offset the cost of providing modern, affordable telecommunications service in high-cost areas. Intercarrier compensation refers to the amount which a carrier must pay to another carrier to transport telecommunications traffic.
Cuts to USF might put existing investment in rural broadband at risk and discourage future investment in new broadband-capable networks by small companies, which could lead to increased rates for telephone, broadband and other services.
HardyNet is in the process of constructing a fiber-to-the-home network that will bring fiber-optic cable connections directly to Hardy County residents’ homes. The fiber network will allow HardyNet to offer much faster broadband speeds, similar to those offered in urban areas. As part of a federal funding award for the project, Hardy must repay a $9.49 million loan.
HardyNet representatives were in Washington as part of the Legislative & Policy Conference hosted by NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association. More than 500 rural telecom representatives from all over the county gathered in the nation’s capital April 22-24 for educational briefings about emerging rules and regulations and other industry issues. They also took part in visits to policymakers on Capitol Hill and the Federal Communications Commission.