Mignon Clyburn addresses the crowd at the 2011 National Rural Assembly Gathering in St. Paul, MN.

[imgcontainer] [img:2011RuralAssembly0987.jpg] [source]Photo by Shawn Poynter/Rural Archive[/source] Mignon Clyburn addresses the crowd at the 2011 National Rural Assembly Gathering in St. Paul, MN. [/imgcontainer]

Registration is open for the 2013 National Rural Assembly, to be held June 23-26 in Bethesda, Md. 

Organizers expect about 200 rural advocates to attend the conference, which is the fourth held by the national network since 2007. 

The Rural Assembly is collaborating with the White House Rural Council on a portion of the conference program.

Priority areas for speakers, workshops and small-group sessions are expected to be rural philanthropy, the Affordable Care Act and rural America, climate change and energy, and immigration reform. Participants may also propose their own sessions (opens Word document). 

The National Rural Assembly is governed by a steering committee of rural advocates. The Center for Rural Strategies, which publishes the Daily Yonder, is the managing partner of the steering committee. 

Internet Lobbying. Ask a room full of rural advocates about the most important issues facing their communities, and the topic of broadband access is bound to come up. So who is shaping the nation’s broadband policy?

It’s essentially an arms race between web application developers like Google and network operators like AT&T.

The National Journal reports that Google spent $17 million on lobbying last year. Among application developers, Microsoft was a distant second with $8 million. Others in the top-five Internet lobbying groups were Hewlett-Packard, Oracle and IBM. Groups like these – who develop equipment and applications for the web – favor net neutrality, or the principle that network operators should treat all data the same.

On the other side of the issue are network operators like phone and cable companies, who would like the ability to control what kinds of information move fastest. On this side, AT&T was the biggest spender in lobbying, matching Google’s expenditures for last year. The next largest lobbying expenditures among network operators were Comcast and Verizon.

The Federal Communications Commission has ruled in favor of network neutrality. But the decision is being challenged in court. Verizon is one of the key petitioners fighting the FCC decision.

Oil Spill Investigation. The attorney general of Arkansas isn’t relying on federal authorities to handle the investigation of the Exxon oil spill from a pipeline near the town of Mayflower. State Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has subpoenaed 12,500 pages of documents from the oil company and is hiring extra help to work on the probe of the 210,000 gallon spill.  McDaniel says the state needs to do its own investigation, in addition to the federal probe.

Exxon declined McDaniel’s request for $4 million from the oil company to pay for the state investigation. In an interview with InsideClimate News, the attorney general said Arkansas taxpayers shouldn’t pay for the investigation. “I don’t intend for the state of Arkansas to have to foot the bill for the manpower necessary to oversee the cleanup and assess the damages for the state,” McDaniel said. “I think that expense should be borne by Exxon.”

Native American Adoption Case. The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case about the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. The law attempts to help preserve Native American families by shoring up the parental rights of Indian parents and discouraging adoption from outside tribes.

Baby Veronica’s adoptive parents were ordered to return the girl to her Native American father, who previously had given up rights to his daughter.

Lifeline Changes Proposed. Low-income families would get a subsidy to purchase broadband access under a new bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Broadband Adoption Act of 2013 would update Lifeline, a Federal Communications Commission program that subsidizes phone service for residents who live near the poverty line. The bill would offer the option for consumers to use the subsidy on landline, mobile or Internet services. It’s supported by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who is leaving the commission. The bill was introduced by three Democratic representatives from California: Doris Matsui, Henry Waxman and Anna Eshoo.

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