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There Are Various Ways for Local Leaders to Get Involved in Federal Broadband Policy Making

In light of the billions of dollars that are being invested into digital infrastructure programs, it is critical for federal officials to conduct outreach to and solicit input from potentially affected communities.

One of the largest barriers to municipal engagement is that local officials and community leaders often do not know where to begin the outreach process. For example, a rural municipality that is in the midst of planning a network deployment may be interested in applying for federal funding. However, they may not have any experience navigating contacts or protocols at the Federal Communications Commission or the United States Department of Agriculture. 

Below, municipal officials, local leaders, and community advocates can find information on federal agencies and the right people to obtain funding and programming resources. While this is not an extensive list, it is intended to give communities a starting point into federal outreach efforts. 

Outreach to the FCC 

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has much of its contact information readily available for public use. The Chairperson and each Commissioner have their staff and email addresses listed publicly. In addition, the FCC has a “Find People” tool that searches the Commission for a particular individual and returns their contact information. 

This, in conjunction with easy to find organizational charts, ensures that local leaders are able to inquire about and contribute to FCC programs. For municipal officials wanting to work more closely with the Commission, the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs is a good place to begin.   

Working With NTIA

The National Telecommunications Information Administration (“NTIA”) is situated within the Department of Commerce and is the President’s advisor on telecommunications and broadband policy. Within the NTIA is BroadbandUSA which serves state, local, and tribal governments, industry, and nonprofits that seek to expand broadband connectivity and promote digital inclusion. 

Communities can submit inquiries to BroadbandUSA at broadbandusa@ntia.gov. Additionally, NTIA also has an Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Inquiries. Much like the FCC’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, this office is responsible for liaising between other federal agencies, as well as state and local governments. NTIA’s OCIA can be reached at Congressional@ntia.gov

Contacting the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (“RUS”) works with rural communities to provide infrastructure and infrastructure improvements. These include access to funding for telecommunications and broadband related services. While the RUS does not have public facing email addresses for program offices and staff, it does list address and telephone information for program and leadership staff. 

Contacting Your Congressperson

Every member of Congress, in the House or Senate, has a website with contact information for their office in Washington, DC, and in their home district or state. Most include an online form to submit emails or meeting requests. However, reaching their staff is often far more valuable. 

The House of Representatives publishes a telephone directory which provides the contact details for each representative and their staff. Note that the Senate only provides a means to look up each Senator, with their address and office telephone numbers

How Next Century Cities Can Help 

Next Century Cities is constantly looking for new ways to connect local leaders with the federal policymakers. If you are interested in sharing a story or raising an issue that needs federal attention, please contact Ryan Johnston, Policy Counsel for Federal Programs at ryan@nextcenturycities.org

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