U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) today visited Aberdeen to discuss the rural call completion issue with representatives from the rural telecommunications industry, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission Vice Chairman Chris Nelson, and rural telephone customers who have been negatively affected by the call disruptions. Johnson also had lunch with the local NARFE chapter and took a tour of the Aberdeen Community Theatre.
“It was great to be in Aberdeen again to meet with community leaders,” said Johnson. “I received useful, on-the-ground insight regarding the rural call problems affecting telephone customers, and I enjoyed talking with federal retirees from the Aberdeen area. I also learned about the Aberdeen Community Theatre’s programming and saw the facility renovations that have enhanced the theatre’s ability to serve as an entertainment and educational resource for the Aberdeen community.”
During the rural call completion roundtable Johnson discussed how many small businesses, school districts, and residential phone customers, a few of which were present at the meeting, are being negatively affected by the ongoing call completion problems. Rural small businesses rely on reliable telephone service and cannot afford to lose business because of calls that are never connected, especially in this difficult economic climate. This problem also creates a serious public safety issue. Johnson has heard from several South Dakota school districts that have reported problems sending emergency alert phone calls to parents. Those at the roundtable each gave their insight, which Johnson will share with the three sitting Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Commissioners and those nominated to fill the current vacancies, upon their nominations being approved by the Senate Commerce Committee. Johnson will continue to spearhead efforts in Congress to get these problems resolved and believes the FCC must prioritize getting this issue addressed by holding those causing the problems accountable.
While at lunch, Johnson and NARFE officials, including President of the NARFE South Dakota Federation and the Aberdeen Chapter Roger Youngman, discussed NARFE’s concerns that federal employees and retirees should not be unfairly targeted in future deficit reduction efforts. Johnson said he would consider the way deficit reduction proposals would affect federal retirees, employees and the programs they administer as he evaluates the many proposals that are currently on the table.
Johnson’s last stop in Aberdeen was at the Aberdeen Community Theatre. Johnson learned about the theatre’s programming and saw the most recent facility renovations.
Johnson is back in South Dakota for the Memorial Day recess and has visited Lower Brule, Sioux Falls, and Aberdeen and will be in Vermillion later this week.