News from the Rural Telecommunications Congress

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Why You Should Attend the Rural Telecom Congress in Dallas from May 2-4

The Rural Telecommunications Congress program at the 2017 Broadband Communities Summit in Dallas on May 2-4, 2017, will feature panelists on the Universal Service Administrative Corporation’s role in bringing broadband to underserved and unserved communities, the role of broadband mapping in today’s telecommunications ecosystem, a case study of bringing broadband to Appalachia, a robust discussion of co-working spaces and the impact they can have on rural communities, and many other topics.

REGISTER TODAY to attend the RTC sessions by using the Rural Telecommunications Code discount code of RTC350. This registration code entitles you to attend the entire Broadband Communities Summit program at the lowest possible rate. The cost to attend is $350.

Among the topics that will be highlighted during the Congress include:

  • A VOICE FROM WASHINGTON
    How the Universal Service Fund is Bringing Broadband to Underserved and Unserved Communities: A View from the Universal Service Administrative Corporation
    How will the strategically important Universal Service Fund and ongoing Federal Communications Commission modernization of programs that support broadband infrastructure affect rural America?
  • MAPPING BETTER BROADBAND
    What are Government Officials and Private Companies Doing to Fill the Void?
    Understanding the locations where high-speed internet service is available has never been more important to the FCC, to USAC, and to the private sector. 
  • Broadband is the New Coal: How Appalachia is Tackling Broadband
    What the Appalachian Regional Commission has done to spur the development of broadband and technology-based economic development to help offset the loss of the coal economy in communities from Pennsylvania to Maryland and beyond. 
  • Fiber-Based Incubators and Tech Hives
    For most communities that develop or partner for high-speed broadband network, economic development and job creation is the primary motivation.  How are they leveraging their connectivity to attract new entrepreneurs and high-tech companies? 
  • Financing the Last Mile with an Essential Services Approach
    Municipal networks that have the benefit of leveraging a utility have shown the ability to build and launch community service at a successful level. But what happens if you’re also in an underserved community, like much of rural America? 
  • Ownership Models for Rural Broadband
    In metropolitan areas, broadband providers are usually vertically integrated – the same company builds, owns and manages the infrastructure and also delivers services. Rural network owners have been more willing to experiment with different ownership and funding models. 
  • Rural Quality of Life; Balancing Digital Opportunities and Technological Disruptions
    Given affordable broadband access and appropriate devices, bridging the digital divide depends on what you choose to do with broadband. This panel will address actionable strategies for scalable training, motivation, and ongoing support for grassroots champions, and social entrepreneurs, in rural, tribal, and urban communities. 
  • BETTER BROADBAND POLICY
    Revising the Telecom Act to Meet the Needs of Rural America
    What laws need to change?  What partnerships need to develop? How can smaller firms and community access institutions get financing?

REGISTER TODAY to attend the RTC sessions by using the Rural Telecommunications Code discount code of RTC350. This registration code entitles you to attend the entire Broadband Communities Summit program at the lowest possible rate. The cost to attend is $350. Visit http://ruraltelecon.org to learn more about the history and activities of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.


Gain insights about changes to Universal Service Fund and new broadband tools

The Rural Telecommunications Congress program at the 2017 Broadband Communities Summit in Dallas on May 2-4, 2017, will feature panelists on the Universal Service Administrative Corporation’s role in bringing broadband to underserved and unserved communities, the role of broadband mapping in today’s telecommunications ecosystem, a case study of bringing broadband to Appalachia, a robust discussion of co-working spaces and the impact they can have on rural communities, and many other topics.

REGISTER TODAY to attend the RTC sessions by using the Rural Telecommunications Code discount code of RTC350. This registration code entitles you to attend the entire Broadband Communities Summit program at the lowest possible rate. The cost to attend is $350.

Below is a complete list of the Rural Broadband Track at the summit. In coming days, we'll be highlighting individual programs that are part of the program.

Tuesday, May 2

3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Track Session
A VOICE FROM WASHINGTON
Connecting Rural America: How the Universal Service Fund is Bringing Broadband to Underserved and Unserved Communities

A discussion of the strategically important Universal Service Fund and ongoing FCC modernization of the federal program to support broadband infrastructure as well as voice service. This session will cover high-level changes at USAC, which administers the $10 billion program, along with an overview of the four programs that make up the fund. It will also take a closer look at the High Cost program, which accounts for nearly half of the entire Universal Service Fund, as the FCC transforms it to subsidize broadband with the new Connect America Fund. In addition, this session will provide an update on the new HUBB (High Cost Universal Broadband) portal, which will collect geolocated broadband deployment data from carriers showing exactly where they are building out mass-market, high-speed Internet service.

Moderator:
Keith Montgomery
 – CFO, Declaration Networks, Group, Inc.

Panelists:
Mark Sweeney – COO, Universal Service Administrative Company  (USAC)
Habib Simab – Director of Operation -High Cost Program, Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC)
Bill Johnson – GIS Director, Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC)


4:10 pm – 5:00 pm
Track Session
MAPPING BETTER BROADBAND
What are Government Officials and Private Companies Doing to Fill the Void?

Understanding the locations where high-speed internet service is available has never been more important to the Federal Communications Commission, the Universal Service Administrative Corporation, and a range of federal and state government agencies. Yet the end of the State Broadband Initiative puts data-collection efforts at a disadvantage. What are government official and private companies doing to fill the void?

Moderator:
Drew Clark
 – President, Rural Telecommunications Congress; Editor & Publisher, BroadbandBreakfast.com

Panelist:
Brian Rathbone – Broadband Planner, Broadband Catalysts
Steve Rosenberg – Chief Data Officer, Federal Communications Commission
Bill Johnson – GIS Director, Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC)

Wednesday, May 3

9:00 am – 9:50 am
Track Session
Broadband is the New Coal: How Appalachia is Tackling Broadband
What the Appalachian Regional Commission has done to spur the development of broadband and technology-based economic development to help offset the loss of the coal economy in communities from Pennsylvania and Maryland to Tennessee.

Moderator:
Eric Ogle
 – Treasurer, Rural Telecommunications Congress; Senior Consultant, Magellan Advisors

Panelists:
Michael Curri – President, SNG (making a short presentation about broadband in the states)
Mark DeFalco – Manager, Appalachian Regional Commission
Lee Brown – General Manager, Erwin Utilities, Erwin, TN
Nathaniel Watkins – CIO, Garrett County, MD
Cheryl DeBerry – Natural Resources Business Specialist, Garrett County, MD


10:00 am – 10:50 am
Track Session
Learn from the Winners
(Presented with NTCA)
Find out what earned three showcase communications companies the NTCA’s prestigious Smart Rural Community Showcase Award, given for promoting rural broadband networks and the broadband-enabled applications that communities can leverage to foster innovative economic development, commerce, education, health care, government services, public safety and security and more efficient energy distribution and use.

Moderator:
Josh Seidemann
 – Vice President of Policy, NTCA

Presenters:
Scott Behn – CEO, Mossaic Telecom
Brian Thomason – CEO, Blue Valley Network Companies
George Plisinki, II – Telecom Operations Manager, NineStar Connect


2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Track Session
Fiber-Based Incubators and Tech Hives
For most communities that develop or partner for high-speed broadband network, economic development and job creation is the primary motivation.  Some particularly innovative communities are taking the next step and developing incubators that cultivate and support new businesses.  These communities are leveraging their connectivity to attract new entrepreneurs and high-tech companies into their community.  Our panelists each have experience working with fiber-based incubators and will talk about some of the positive outcomes and lessons learned.

Moderator:
Gene Crick
 – Rural Telecommunications Congress

Panelists:
Doug Dawson – President,  CCG Consulting
Robert Wack – City Council President, Westminster, MD
Joel Smith – Accelerant BSP
Dennis Donohue – Lead, Center for Innovation & Technology, Western Growers; Former Mayor, Salinas, CA
Gabriel Garcia – Director & Senior Counsel, CPS Energy


4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Track Session
Financing the Last Mile with an Essential Services Approach
Municipal networks that have the benefit of leveraging a utility (electric, gas, etc.) have shown the ability to build and launch community service at a successful level in terms of take-rates, financing, and operations. But what happens when you community doesn’t have that head start to municipal broadband goodness? And what happens if you’re also in an underserved community like much of rural America. Rural broadband subscribers receive half the bandwidth for the same price as their urban counterparts. This session will examine a new way to fund the last mile by combining Broadband Improvement Districts, cost reduction financing and local economic growth in a sustainable, low-risk approach. We will also discuss how to take a holistic approach to examining where costs can be saved and avoided while the tax base grows to pay for the network.

Moderator:
Michael Curri
 – Founder & President, Strategic Networks Group, Inc.

Panelists:
Bruce Patterson – Technology Director, City of Ammon, Idaho
Bryan Adams – Director of Sales & Marketing, LS Networks

Thursday, May 4

9:10 am – 10:00 am
Track Session
Ownership Models for Rural Broadband
In metropolitan areas, broadband providers are usually vertically integrated – the same company builds, owns and manages the infrastructure and also delivers services. Rural network owners have been more willing to experiment with different ownership and funding models. In this session, we’ll hear from multiple network owners that have achieved success in rural areas.   Find out what the trade-offs are among these different models, and learn how to decide which is right for your network.

Moderator:
Joel Mulder
 – Vice President of Sales, ex2 Technology

Presenters:
Bruce Patterson – Technology Director, City of Ammon, Idaho
Leo Carlson – Business & Technology Manager, Norvado
Rick Smith – General Services Director, City of Cortez


10:10 am – 11:00 am
Track Session
Rural Quality of Life; Balancing Digital Opportunities and Technological Disruptions
Given affordable broadband access and appropriate devices, bridging the digital divide depends on what first you learn is possible, and then, choose to do with broadband. Without attention to appropriate support systems for growing a rural and/or urban, local culture of creativity, the digital divide will persist, even with broadband. This panel will address actionable strategies for scalable training, motivation, and ongoing support for grassroots champions, and social entrepreneurs, in rural, tribal, and urban communities.

Moderator:
Frank Odasz
 – President, Lone Eagle Consulting

Presenter:
Michael Liimatta – Professor, City Vision University; Former Manager of ConnectHome at HUD


11:10 am – 12:00 pm
Track Session
BETTER BROADBAND POLICY
Revising the Telecom Act to Meet the Needs of Rural America
A chance for all to meet with serious folks who have spent years working on broadband diffusion and their ideas of how to change the laws to create more broadband access in rural America. They were here when the Internet started  and have helped grow it. What laws do we need to change?  What partnerships do we need to develop? Financing for smaller firms and community access institutions.  Cross Border Initiatives Schools, Libraries, HealthCare funding.

Moderator:
Jane Smith Patterson
 – Partner, Broadband Catalysts, LLP

Presenters:
John Windhausen – Executive Director SHELB, Washington DC
Mark Johnson – Vice President, the Quilt, and former Director of USCANN
Will Aycock – Greenlight  General Manager

REGISTER TODAY to attend the RTC sessions by using the Rural Telecommunications Code discount code of RTC350. This registration code entitles you to attend the entire Broadband Communities Summit program at the lowest possible rate. The cost to attend is $350.

Drew Clark, President
Rural Telecommunications Congress
http://www.ruraltelecon.org/


Reps. Huffman, Pocan, and Nolan Introduce New Deal Rural Broadband Act to Close Digital Divide in Rural America

WASHINGTON, February 2, 2017 – Congressmen Jared Huffman, D-Calif., Mark Pocan, D-Wisconsin, and Rick Nolan, D-Minnesota, introduced the New Deal Rural Broadband Act of 2017, an ambitious plan to connect every American home, business, and school to high-speed, reliable broadband internet that is based on Roosevelt’s New Deal rural electrification model. The legislation would expand access to broadband internet in rural communities in Huffman’s North Coast congressional district, and across the nation, through increased investments in broadband infrastructure, improved programs to support tribal communities in broadband development, and the establishment of a new Office of Rural Broadband Initiatives to better coordinate all Federal rural broadband deployment programs.

In 2016, according to the Federal Communications Commission, 39% of rural America and 41% of those living on Tribal land lacked access to advanced broadband, defined as 25 Mbps/3 Mbps. By comparison, only 10% of the country as a whole lack access to advanced broadband.

“The longer we allow the digital divide to persist in rural America and Indian country, the more Americans will be left behind,” said Rep. Huffman. “The New Deal Broadband Act is an ambitious blueprint to connect every home, school, and business in America to high-speed, reliable broadband so we can all compete in the world economy. All Americans deserve the benefits of improved economic development, as well as expanded public safety, health, and education services. Our new legislation builds on the legacy and success of FDR’s New Deal to bring broadband access in rural America into the 21st century.”

“Rural America has waited long enough for high-speed broadband,”  Rep. Nolan said. “It’s a necessity required to start new businesses, create new good-paying jobs, help our small town rural economy grow, and modernize the education and health care services so essential to quality of life. I’m proud to join my colleague in introducing this legislation to connect tens

“Across our country, many people still lack basic and reliable access to the internet. Congress must work together to address the connectivity gap and ensure that communities, especially in rural America, are able to stay connected to the 21st Century economy,” said Rep. Pocan. “The New Deal Broadband Act is a comprehensive plan to address broadband connectivity across our nation and I am proud to introduce this bill with my colleagues Reps. Huffman and Nolan.”

“Current federal rural broadband policy is not favorable to California,” said Connie Stewart, Executive Director of the California Center for Rural Policy at Humboldt State University. “Of the more than 110 federally recognized tribes in the state, 84 do not qualify for RUS grant funding. We would like to thank Congress Huffman for his leadership in bringing a comprehensive federal rural broadband policy to life”

“The lack of access to broadband in rural America remains a major challenge. Incumbents have not really acted fast enough to closed the digital divide. Unless we solve this need, we create an even larger urban-rural economic gap. an even larger urban-rural economic gap,” said Tom West, Manager of the North Bay North Coast Broadband Consortium. “ Rep. Huffman’s proposed broadband infrastructure investment would create new opportunities on the North Coast to ensure all homes, schools, and businesses have access to high-speed, reliable broadband.”

In January, Senate Democrats unveiled a $1 trillion infrastructure plan that included $20 billion in broadband infrastructure investment.

The New Deal Rural Broadband Act would:

  •          Establish a new Office of Rural Broadband Initiatives to coordinate and centralize all Federal rural broadband programs;
  •          Authorize $20 billion for new broadband infrastructure focused on rural communities and those without adequate access;
  •          Authorize a new Tribal Broadband Assistance Program to support tribal communities in broadband deployment;
  •          Improve and modernize the Telecommunications Loan and Loan Guarantee Program to increase eligibility, allow greater flexibility, and break down federal agency broadband “silos”;
  •          Authorize the Rural Utility Service (RUS) to offer broadband grants in addition to loans and loan guarantees to provide small communities with the seed funds needed to compete in loan applications or develop commercially attractive proposals and increase overall (RUS) broadband investment from $25 million to $50 million annually; and
  •          Establish an inventory of Federal and State assets on which a broadband facility could be constructed and;
  •          Provide land management agencies with cooperative agreement and fee retention authority for telecommunications rights-of-way to leverage public lands for broadband deployment.

Source: Reps. Huffman, Pocan, and Nolan Introduce New Deal Rural Broadband Act to Close Digital Divide in Rural America | Congressman Jared Huffman


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.

unnamed.jpg

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.
Read more

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.

[more...]

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


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

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAO0AAAAJDQ1MTZmNjZlLWQ2YWUtNGViMi05MTg5LWRiMWFhZmM3YWZhNA.jpg

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.”

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more


Donate Volunteer Find an Event

connect

get updates