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Rep. Welch Opening Remarks at an Energy & Commerce Committee Subcommittee Hearing on Rural Call Quality and Reliability

Thank you very much, and I really am delighted we’ve got Eric LeBeau from Vermont here who is going to be speaking about this. But I want to also thank Mr. Latta and all of my colleagues for focusing on the challenges that we have in rural America.

Rural America is most of America. And it’s good people who live there. It’s most of this committee. A lot of our focus has been on getting broadband and high speed internet out to rural America. That’s a challenge because of the economics of it but it’s a commitment that we’re making.

But this is about basic telephone service. And it’s pretty astonishing when you think about it that you can’t have confidence as a business or individual that your call is going to go through. And it’s pretty bizarre when it happens because you’ll call and you’re talking to somebody and you can hear them but they can’t hear you, or they can hear you but you can’t hear them. Or you’re in the middle of the call and it gets dropped. And it’s all about these least-cost routers, finding the cheapest way to do it and whether it means that it's overlapped calls or dropped calls—they don’t care—and then it’s very difficult for the FCC to follow up because that’s illegal but it’s not enforceable. This legislation is going to help that.

It’s an indication that this committee is sincerely committed to making certain that the tools of the modern economy—let alone the telephone—are available to folks in rural America. That’s red states, blue, states, its all of us.

And it came to my attention talking to folks like Dakin Farm where Mr. LeBeau is from. They have this extraordinary business. They have up to 175 employees that come on between Thanksgiving and Christmas—that’s 70 percent of their business. They sell the best bacon, the best maple syrup, and the best cheese in the world.

You might want to get Mr. LeBeau’s number. But if you get his number, I want your call to him to be completed and that’s why we’ve got to get this legislation passed. It’s a big deal. It’s 70 percent of business. Just think about it. That short window of time depends on the phone system working, and it doesn’t work right now.

So we’ve got great people like Mr. Miller and Mr. LeBeau in our districts and we’ve got to give them some confidence that the tools that are basic for them to be successful are there for them to succeed. 

I’m really proud to have a Vermonter, Mr. LeBeau, here. He grew up in Vergennes, Vermont, he’s back there—he went away to Indiana and got a degree—came back to VT, raising his family and he has been the General Manager of this company, Dakin Farm, that we’re very proud of in Vermont and he’ll be able to give you some practical explanations of this.

At this point I’d like to yield the balance of my time to my friend and fellow traveler on this, Mr. Loebsack.