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March Madness

March Madness

No, this will not be a blog about the NCAA tournament, especially since my alma mater, Vanderbilt, lost in a heart-breaker in the first round.  But, I got your attention, right?  Also, did I mention that my husband went to UK, so at least I can fall back on supporting one of the greatest college basketball programs of all time…

This blog is somewhat aptly named because I have about five or six issues percolating in my head at the moment.  While I won’t touch on all of them today, I will tackle a couple.  First, the UTC Region 3 Spring Event in Chattanooga went incredibly well – about 200 attendees, with folks highly engaged throughout.TVA was the host utility and sent over several folks to present on both technical and strategic issues.Because UTC members need to hear both of those perspectives, I was heartened to see the combination and want to note that we are focused on incorporating both into our upcoming UTC Telecom & Technology event in Charlotte as well as moving forward in the regional meetings and workshops.

The ongoing challenge at UTC is continuing to engage those  “on the ground” who are implementing or overseeing implementation of the telecommunications networks, cybersecurity processes, big data analytics, etc., on which we are founded, while at the same time ensuring that the “C-suite” understands and appreciates the highly strategic value these networks and processes bring to their utilities. Bear with us as we continue to determine the best ways to balance these two pieces, and please feel free to let me know if you have ideas. Besides including C-suite folks in our meetings, I am also engaging with utility and fellow trade association CEOs/C-suite executives “inside-the-beltway,” in various forums. In addition, we are solidifying our relationships with the D.C. offices of our member utilities (if they have D.C. offices). These efforts are already beginning to bear fruit and we are getting engagement back on advocacy matters, an increased number of requests for speaking engagements and an elevated level of collaboration overall. The bottom line is, ongoing communication, follow-up and relationship management are key to our success in both arenas.

Before I leave the discussion of IMG_1456Region 3, I want to give a huge shout-out to both Lynn Lisby of Southern Company, who has supported that region for over 30 years in her “spare time,” as well as to Sue Hoffman, also of Southern Company, who has been a mainstay in the region and who seems to be one of the people in the room who consistently asks insightful questions of the presenters. Also, the Region 3 officers, Chair Andrew Tudor,  Vice Chair Mostafa Shamsuddin and Sec/Treasurer Tim Parsons did an excellent job pulling together the meeting and leading excellent discussions.

The next issue I want to tackle is one that got raised at UTC’s RBC (Rural Broadband Council) meeting in Sacramento earlier this week, namely the need for ongoing engagement/advocacy by UTC and its members at both the federal and state levels (note that UTC only engages at the state level in coordination with its members and when it makes sense to lend our voice). This is important, even on issues that seem virtually impossible to win at first blush because the forces arrayed on the other side of an issue seem so formidable given their sheer size and the monetary resources deployed to lobby. Though, in these cases, it may seem foolish to even try, I am here to tell you that, as has been evidenced by both historical fact (our own Revolutionary War, for example) and in endless movies and novels, sometimes the underdogs win – if they deploy their plans strategiIMG_1475cally, gain the right allies and have a little bit of luck. The point is, we can’t even hope to win if we don’t join the fray. Take, for example, the work done by RBC over the last several years. The RBC has succeeded in enabling utilities to access funding for broadband through the FCC’s Connect America Fund (CAF), through the diligent advocacy of leaders like Midwest Electric Cooperative’s Bob Hance, BARC Electric Cooperative’s Mike Keyser and Ozark Electric Cooperative’s Randy Klindt, as well as others. This victory has tangible, real-world benefits to Americans in unserved areas. The bottom line is, as a small hobbit named Frodo was able to beat the mighty Sauron in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (with a lot of help from his friends), so too, can UTC and its members achieve success on areas of importance to utilities and, ultimately, the Americans they serve reliably and safely 24/7 365. Until we meet again…


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