On June 7th, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and his Senior Counsel Nick Degani stopped in Southern Minnesota as they traveled from Minneapolis to Sioux City, Iowa as part of a larger 5 state road trip. I mentioned this earlier – but was happy to talk with MTA President/CEO Brent Christensen (and host to Pai) about the visit.
Brent noted that this is only the second time in past 20 years that a FCC Chairman has visited Minnesota and the first time one toured Greater Minnesota. The Chairman was specifically interested in learning from rural telcos about the challenges they are facing deploying broadband. He also wanted to see how the Connect America Fund (CAF) and Alternative Connect America Model (A-CAM) were actually being implemented in the field.
The Chairman stopped in Madelia where he was given a tour of Christensen Communications Company, a 114 year old family owned company deploying fiber to the premise. The Chairman heard from the Christensen family on how the company started and its commitment to the communities they serve. He was then shown the outside plant upgrade plans and told of how new A-CAM money is being used to expedite the deployment. This was followed by a tour of the Central office where the Chairman was able to have an open dialog with CCC installers on the pros and cons of fiber, fixed wireless and other technologies being used by the company
Following the tour, the Chairman convened a round table discussion in a local restaurant with area telcos. The group talked about contribution reform, the rate floor for landline telephone service, Internet privacy, and other related topics. The Chairman concluded his visit with media interviews. Brent noted, “I have always been a fan of Chairman Pai and his commitment to rural America, but now I am even more so. He is extremely down to earth and easy to talk to. Like he said, he comes from a “fly over” state. When it was all over, the Chairman and Mr. Degani got into their rented Hyundai and continued down the road. It doesn’t get anymore “real” than that.”