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.

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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.
Of note, some clearly motivated attendees attended from as far away as Haines, Alaska; the Makah tribe in Northwest Washington; Pine Ridge, South Dakota, a 13-hour drive, and from a community of 9,000 in Connecticut.
While the workshop was for MT, WY, SD and ND, driving distances are daunting. For the many hundreds of smaller rural communities, the task of creating and sustaining a broadband stakeholders teams is a challenge, though the Mayor of Ammon, ID shared their success story, suggesting where there’s a will, there’s a way.  The learning curve can be quite steep for those wondering just what IS broadband anyway, and what’s the greatest ROI we can expect once broadband is available, noting a large percentage of rural folks won’t subscribe even if it IS available. Awareness that BB is essential to rural sustainability in a world of accelerating change is rapidly growing, though many are not sure exactly how to leverage the highest possible returns. NTIA and NSF has asked for input for the new National Broadband Research Agenda to learn more about strategies for the best and broadest potential impacts.
NTIA and NSF are requesting public comments (http://www.ntia.doc.gov/request-comments-national-broadband-research-agenda) that will inform the National Broadband Research Agenda. The public’s input will help to improve data collection, analysis and research for the benefit of broadband policy development, program implementation and program evaluation.

They are seeking input in four areas: 

1.       Broadband technology
2.       Broadband access and adoption
3.       Socioeconomic impacts
4.       Opportunities for federal leadership

NTIA meets weekly with the Broadband Opportunity Council for ongoing discussions on how the 30 executive branch agencies can do more with existing budgets to meet the goals of the BOC report. One highlight is the federal reserve’s community reinvestment act revised incentives for member banks to invest in Low and medium income community broadband infrastructure and *training projects. Learn more at the BroadbandUSA homepage; http://www2.ntia.doc.gov/

The BOC theme is basically that the Top Down and the Bottom Up need to work more closely together to determine the most scalable solutions for each level of a broad range of diverse situations for communities, counties, regions, and states. If we all share what we know, we’ll all have access to all our knowledge. And Broadband opens the door for unlimited collaboration and sharing, among peers in particular, to quickly learn on an ongoing basis; “What’s already working for others like  you!"
Previously, I noted these resources:

 

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