News from the Rural Telecommunications Congress

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Rural Telecommunications Congress Attends Big Sky Broadband Workshop

NTIA hosted an afternoon and morning of panels and events where Montanans and national experts presented opportunities for technical assistance FTF as well as case studies on the rapidly changing landscape of community broadband opportunities. The workshop followed a meeting of the MT telecom Assoc, where Montana telcos stated concern about unnecessary muni overbuilds by communities.


A tribal breakfast roundtable was held, and leaders from the Blackfeet tribe stated their preference for being in control over their own community broadband, and a kerfuffle ensued with their regional telco, which resulted literally in the two entities sitting down at the same table to talk about solutions. Public private partnership success stories were a prevailing theme throughout the conference.

The event invited those who consider themselves as broadband stakeholders, and the conference packet had many robust resources and reports, with a new Stakeholders Guide being announced at the conference. The panels were excellent, and far-ranging in topics. The CCI two hour event the morning of the second day invited everyone to participate in the codesign of a growing community assessment tool, and over 8 webinars are planned to supplement the process through the end of 2016.
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From Mignon Clyburn's Blog: Tackling the Connectivity Challenges of Rural America

Access to robust, affordable advanced telecommunications services, ought to be available to everyone — no matter who they are, no matter where they live. That is not only the core tenet of the #ConnectingCommunities tour I launched in April, it is one of the ‘prime directives’ of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

An invitation from Congressman Ben Ray Luján and Senator Tom Udall brought me to New Mexico earlier this week, where I engaged in in-depth discussions about the successes and challenges that New Mexico and Navajo Nation face as they bring connectivity to their communities.


A roundtable session with the Senator, Congressman, State legislators, State commissioners in NMA roundtable session with the Senator, Congressman, State legislators, State commissioners, and more than two dozen telephone companies and rural cooperatives that serve the hardest-to-reach places in the Southwest, was the first of several enlightening meetings during the two-day visit. We discussed how costly it is to deploy broadband and other services, particularly on Native lands, and how even in places where broadband is deployed, the lack of internal infrastructure even amongst anchor tenants like an area school, can make it inaccessible to needy populations.

I travelled from Albuquerque for about an hour and a half to Torreon, NM, with Congressman Luján leading the way, to observe a Lifeline signup event, and participate in a discussion hosted by the Torreon Chapter President, David Rico. Cellular One serves this part of Navajo Nation, and plans to upgrade the 2G service they currently offer in Torreon to 3G by the fall, and hopefully to 4G sometime next year. You may not be aware that it takes six microwave hops from the Torreon tower (86 miles) just to reach fiber backhaul.


A roundtable session with the Senator, Congressman, State legislators, State commissioners in NM

The Digital Age and Rural Communities, or a 'Responsive Countryside'


Note from RTC President Drew Clark: This piece is by Associate Extension Professor & Leader Roberto Gallardo, Ph.D., at the Mississippi State University Extension and Intelligent Community Institute. He is the author of The Responsive CountrysideThis piece is published by permission.

Technology has always been a critical factor in human development. It has pushed humanity through at least three major revolutions—cognitive, agricultural, and scientific—and is once more influencing humanity’s transition to a new revolution: the digital age. Some call this new age the information age and argue that its main characteristic is that information is transferred quickly.

However, I believe the digital age is much more than transferring information quickly. To me, the digital age allows for digital technologies and applications to be invented and adopted transforming our current social and economic landscape. Though an agreed-upon definition of the digital age is still in the works, it is showing certain characteristics that are important to understand.

The first characteristic is that it is exponential. Exponential refers to something that starts really slow and then moves a lot faster. The hardware components and in some cases the adoption rate of digital technologies have shown an exponential rate.

For example, your smartphone has more computing power today than NASA did back in 1969. Also, consider that it took the telephone 75 years to reach 100 million users while it took Instagram 2 years to reach the same amount of users. The main implication of this exponential rate is that digital devices are becoming smaller, more powerful, and cheaper causing digital platforms and applications to spread faster.

The second characteristic is that it is digital. In other words, everything is being converted into 1s and 0s. This digital information can then be sent or accessed quickly from anywhere. At the forefront of this digitization of our physical world is something called the Internet of Everything (IoE)— also called the Internet of Things (IoT).

IoE consists of people (interacting through apps and social media), things (smartphones and billions of sensors), data (vast amounts generated from social media posts to real-time measurement of manufacturing processes, car performance, etc.), and processes (ability to streamline, gather, and analyze data generated). Thanks to IoE, our physical world can be monitored, measured, and optimized like never before.

The previous two characteristics of exponential and digital lead to the third characteristic: combinatorial. The digital age allows ideas to be combined and recombined and identify patterns and behaviors we did not know existed. Unfortunately, our ability to digitize and generate information has surpassed our ability to analyze and extract the information we want at the time it is needed. In other words, we have been great at putting information in but not so good at getting useful and relevant information out. Some researchers call this the “technology lag.”

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Minnesota Launches $35 Million Broadband Fund

July 13, 2016 - The Institute for Local Self Reliance has posted this item announcing broadband funding in Minnesota:

The Land of 10,000 Lakes wants to become The Land of 10,000 Lakes With High-Speed Internet Access. 

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) will begin taking applications for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program on July 22, 2016. The program offers a total of $35 million in funding for projects in unserved and underserved areas. The application submission period closes on October 3, 2016.

The Grant Program

The Border-to-Border program will pay for up to 50 percent of project development costs, awarding a maximum of $5 million per grant. This round of funding sets aside $5 million specifically for underserved areas, and $500,000 will be set aside for areas that contain a significant proportion of low-income households. Officials estimate this year's $35 million in funding will impact an additional 2,000 Minnesotans.

Since May 2014, the Border-to-Border program has provided over $30 million in assistance to over 30 projects throughout Minnesota. This latest funding opportunity brings the total funding up to $65.4 million. It is the largest funding appropriation for the program to date. [more...]

Senate Broadband Caucus Launches with Focus on Rural Broadband

WASHINGTON, July 13, 2016 - The Senate Broadband Caucus launched on Tuesday afternoon on Capitol Hill with a focus on the need to ensure that all parts of the United States have access to good-quality broadband.

Led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., and joined by Sen. Angus King, D-Maine, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and John Boozman, R-Ark., each of the senators spoke at the launch and touted the need to ensure that broadband is available and well-used by residents of rural as well as urban areas.

In the release announcing the launch of the caucus, the five senators declared:

Broadband is critical to the viability of our economy and the future of American ingenuity and entrepreneurship. It has become the very foundation for invention and a necessary backbone that communities - both urban and rural - across the country need to succeed. Broadband access will also maximize children's educational opportunities at school and at home, modernize our healthcare system with telehealth, and help educate those who aspire to gain access to new skills to compete in the 21st century workforce.

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The Extraordinary Open Access Network in Ammon, Idaho

The Institute for Local Self Reliance recently published this video about the open-access network in Ammon, Idaho. Better than anything that I've seen recently, this video captures the essence of the potential behind open-access networks.

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USDA Announces Telemedicine Funding to Address Opioid Epidemic in Appalachia

ABINGDON, Virginia, June 30, 2016 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced five Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant awards to help provide treatment for the growing opioid epidemic in rural central Appalachia. Vilsack made the announcement as he hosted a town hall in Abingdon to address the opioid crisis in rural America, the first in a series. In January, President Obama tasked Secretary Vilsack, who is chair of the White House Rural Council, with leading a federal interagency effort focused on rural opioid use.

"Because addiction treatment is often out of reach for many in rural America, expanding access to telemedicine is an important step towards making sure rural communities have the tools they need to fight the opioid epidemic," Vilsack said. "USDA is committed to provide the critical resources rural areas need to reduce the staggering increase in opioid overdose deaths that is driving up health care costs and devastating communities."

Today's announcement is the first part of a new round of DLT projects that are to be announced this summer and includes nearly $1.4 million for five projects in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia to help rural areas address the opioid epidemic.

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Broadband Communities Summit Opens in Austin, Texas

AUSTIN, April 5, 2016 - The Broadband Communities Summit opened on Tuesday with a remembrance of Scott DeGarmo, the former CEO of the company that hosts the conference, and which has blossomed into a celebration of the impact of broadband on the lives of everyday citizens. 

Kicking off the conference was a panel discussion about the role of "Internet of Things" and its impact on urban and rural communities. Led by a presentation made by Florence Hudson of Internet2, the discussion focused heavily upon the benefits -- and risks -- of the Internet of Things.


The Rural Telecommunications Congress' track of panels in the programs begins at 3 p.m. in the Wedgewood Room, with a Session on "Ensuring State Involvement in Broadband Development: A Blue Ribbon Panel of State Broadband Leaders."

Moderating the event will be Michael Curri, president of the Strategic Networks Group, and a member of the board of the RTC, with panelists from the states of Colorado, Kentucky, Tennessee, Utah, and Washington.

On Tuesday, RTC and SNG released the results of a survey of state broadband offices. The report is titled "The 50 States of Broadband: A state-by-state study of the state of broadband investment and activity in each American state."

Of the 48 states responding the survey, 25 of them have a state broadband office. But only 28 percent surveyed said the state had annual funding to support broadband initiatives. However, only nine states are funding planning and support activities going forward.

Following the blue ribbon panel will be a session on "Extending Middle-Mile Fiber Networks to Last-Mile Homes in Rural Areas."

Moderated by Joel Muler of ex2 Technologies and a member of the RTC Board, it will include, as panelists, Sandeep Taxali of the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Chief Technology Officer Rob Henry of the City of Davenport, Iowa; Chris Janson, a board member of OpenCape and the RTC; and Brad Moline of Allo Communications.

Rural Telecommunications Congress Releases Report on State Broadband Offices

AUSTIN, April 5, 2016 - The Rural Telecommunications Congress and the Strategic Networks Group released the results from a survey of 48 state broadband offices. The report is titled "The 50 States of Broadband: A state-by-state study of the state of broadband investment and activity in each American state," and will be released on Wednesday.

Of the 48 states responding the survey, 25 of them have a state broadband office. But only 28 percent surveyed said the state had annual funding to support broadband initiatives. However, only nine states are funding planning and support activities going forward.

The full report will be released on Wednesday.


Don't Miss the Implications of Internet of Things for Rural and Urban America

The Broadband Communities Summitt will kick off this year in Austin, Texas, at 8 a.m. Tuesday, April 5, with a discussion of "The Internet of Things: Financial and Societal Implications for Rural and Urban America." Here's the panel description for the event:

Tuesday, April 5, 2016
8:00 am – 9:00 am

Featured Keynote Address: “The Internet of Things: Financial and Societal Impacts on Urban and Rural America” 
The Internet of Things promises new forms of automation – and new uses for broadband technology – but activities have been scattered among disparate applications. How will cities and rural areas alike benefit from “smart cities” and other Internet of Things applications?

Introduced by Drew Clark, President, Rural Telecommunications Congress; Of Counsel, Best Best & Krieger, LLP

Mark Johnson – Chief Technology Officer and Vice President of Data Architecture, MCNC

Florence D. Hudson – Senior Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer, Internet2

Paul Hopingardner – Deputy CIO, City of Austin
Steven Garbrecht – Director, GE Digital 
Patrick Sims – CTO, Lightcore Group, Inc. 
Anne Schwieger – Broadband and Digital Equity Advocate, City of Boston Department of Innovation & Technology 

This article from PublicCEO paints a picture of some of its implications for urban areas. Our panelists at the event will help to flesh out how the IoT will also impact rural areas:



What the Internet of Things Means for Local Governments

What the Internet of Things Means for Local Governments

By Drew Clark.

Increasingly, computing power is everywhere. The personal computer that once resided on the desktop migrated to the hip pocket and the wrist watch, and now to eyewear and clothing.

Welcome the “Internet of Things,” or IoT in tech jargon. 

We may encounter these tiny technologies first in our homes or at work. But the IoT already has big implications for city leaders and managers charged with building “Smart Cities” and making their governments more responsive. 

The IoT consumer gadgets on the market include smart doorbells, WiFi enabled toothbrushes, refrigerators that order groceries and ovens that can be scheduled to cook dinner. What has become known as the Internet of Things occurs when: 1.) digital sensors can be embedded onto almost any “thing,” 2.) almost every electronic device has some measurable processing power, and 3.) these devices can be networked together through the Internet. 

Among the areas where the civic IoT is advancing most rapidly are in water management and waste removal, the electrical “smart grid,” and improving transportation — whether it be public transit, smoother automobile traffic or parking cars.


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