36 THE POWER OF POSSIBILITY NISC | 50 YEARS OF INNOVATION AND MEMBER SERVICE way to pay for that connection. The National Exchange Carrier Association determined what to include in this new charge, called Carrier Access Billing (CABs), and formulated a rate. While uncertainties lingered, NCDC set to work on new software to enable this billing. “It was a brand-new product, created from scratch. We had our challenges in writing the software,” recalls Bruce Walth, who became known as “Mr. CABs” — the go-to person for Members with questions about the complicated process. Walth retired in 2016 after 37 years with NISC. With competition, long-distance calls became less expensive and more frequent — and telecoms made money on each one. When American Idol became a TV sensation in 2002, customers raced to their phones to call in their votes for their favorite singers — creating a noticeable increase in call volume for Member telecoms. “As long as their customers kept making more long- distance calls and receiving more calls, their CABs went up,” says Ryan Larson, NISC’s Sr. Product Line Manager for Telecom Operations. “At some times you would have Members receiving 75 percent of their company revenues through CABs.” ThroughanorderissuedinNovember2011, the Federal Communications Commission began reducing CABs payments. But by then, many telecoms had installed fiber lines and expanded services, opening up new oppor- tunities for revenue. The rural telecoms also benefited from the Universal Service Fund, a fee on every phone bill to equalize service across the country. Each leap of technology unveils a world that is more connected, more fluid, more global. But each major shift makes previous products obsolete, like a butterfly shucking off its cocoon. NCDC brought telecoms together in the mid-1980s to form NCRPC, National Central Regional Processing Center, a for-profit entity that contracted with AT&T to provide long-distance billing on NCDC Telecom Member bills. A key agreement signed with AT&T for the billing is signed in 1992 by NCRPC Board Members and AT&T representatives. Seated left (then clockwise), NCRPC Board Members: Howard “Bud” Johnston, Ron Brothen, Wayne Livermont, Fred Dohrmann, Bob Gens; NCDC General Manager Ray Clouse, and two AT&T representatives. continued on page 38