LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – It is official – well, almost.

The National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) and OPASTCO – the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunication Companies – voted last week to unite and reform as one single organization to be named NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, according to both groups last week.

The two associations formally voted for the unification last week in Florida during the Rural Telecom Industry Meeting and Expo. The unification will become official on March 1.

The vote count for NTCA was 169 for the unification, with 10 against. OPASTCO delegates voted 133 for, with 10 against, according to reports at Telecompetitor.

Both organizations noted in last week’s announcement that the joining of these two well-known entities will help increase the policy strength for the rural telecommunications industry and expands the business opportunities for growth and development for rural telecom companies.

FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell signaled his approval of the move.

“It is encouraging to see the rural telecom industry unify their organizations and policy initiatives,” stated McDowell in a prepared statement. “This enables the industry to lead with one voice and focus their efforts. I look forward to working with the new organization.”

NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield said rural telecom companies have dedicated themselves to rural communities and consumers for many years and a lot has changed.

“The unification of our organizations is another step in the evolution,” said Bloomfield. “We are excited for all the new possibilities within the industry as a united force. All rural telecom companies and the communities they serve will benefit from the policy strength we gain as a unified industry.”

“The future of the rural telecom industry depends on its ability to rally resources and work together to find new revenue opportunities,” added OPASTCO President John Rose. “Unification of our industry is the first step to ensuring the long-term prosperity of rural broadband networks and the communities they serve.”

The NTCA represents nearly 600 locally-owned and controlled telecommunications cooperatives and commercial companies throughout rural and small-town America. OPASTCO represents more than 372 small independently-owned, local telecommunications companies, serving primarily rural areas of the United States and Canada.