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Better Broadband for Rural America Means Looking Beyond Tradition: Join Us at the Rural Telecommunications Congress Today

in Education/Expert Opinion/Health/Public Safety/Universal Service by

AUSTIN, April 14, 2015 – The Rural Telecommunications Congress portion of the Broadband Communities Summit opens here Tuesday with a series of conference sessions focused on looking beyond conventional rural telecom.

Rural Telecommunications CongressWith a theme of “Connecting Communities Across the Countryside of Rural America,” our conference sessions on Tuesday include a discussion of the State Broadband Initiative and its impact on rural America, and a robust panel on the companies and technologies that will broadband the life-giving broadband to rural America.

The RTC sessions planning for Wednesday including a summary of the lessons learned from successful broadband deployments, “Broadband and the Farm,” and the impact of the internet of things on rural communities — plus important insight on telemedicine-based health and education programs.

Thursday, the final day of the summit and RTC sessions, includes two unique sessions on “Powers to Tractors to Computers to Prosperity,” and on “Who Will Gigafy Our Rural Infrastructure?”

As a member of the RTC Board, which puts on this portion of the conference, I’ve never been more excited about the conference than the one planned to begin today.

Jane Patterson, President of the RTC, wrote of conference this year:

This year, rather than our own separate day, the RTC program of panels, seminars and plenary events will be interspersed throughout the three day conference. More than ever before the presentations, discussions and face to face encounters with  the best and brightest technologists, policy advocates, and  policy makers from all levels of government, will arm you with today’s best practices in building capacity and adoption.

You’ll return to your own constituency, clients, customers or citizen groups, with increased ability to advocate for better broadband, the economic impact it brings, or increased capacity to advocate for your products and counsel.

RTC has a rich tradition of bringing constituencies together to advocate for better broadband in rural areas. One conference, in Springfield, Illinois, in 2007, was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, an organization that I had the privilege of leading.

As with other State Broadband Initiative entities, Broadband Illinois had the task of working to sure that Illinoisans had access to, and the opportunity to connect to high-quality internet services. Working to ensure rural broadband has remained one of the trickiest parts of this mission for universal broadband.

Since I become a member of the RTC Board four years ago, I’ve been struck by our charge to ensure that rural broadband is not captive to traditional rural telecom interests. That’s why I was so pleased to hear Monday’s remarks by the Federal Communications Commission’s Jonathan Chambers about the Rural Broadband Experiment.

Among the lessons learned from this bid, offered last year by the FCC, were that broadband support could be offered more than twice as cheaply as it currently is being offered!

As an organization advocating for rural broadband that not beholden to traditional telecom interests, the Rural Telecommunications Congress takes its strength from the diversity of interest: State-wide entities, businesses who see opportunities for rural America, and long-time rural residents who simply want something better than dial-up or digital subscriber lines (DSL).

The RTC’s full program this year is listed below, and available here on the Broadband Communities web site. We invite you to join us this year!

 

Tuesday, April 14

3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
US—Digital Nation
Accomplishments of the State Broadband Initiative that can drive Rural America to move forward with Gigabit/High Speed Broadband.

Moderator:
Jane Patterson, President, The View Forward – Go Forward

Speaker:
Anne Neville – Director, State Broadband Initiative, NTIA; U.S. Department of Commerce

 

4:10 pm – 5:00 pm
Broadband Is Like Oxygen to Rural America – What Technology and Companies Will Provide It?
This session will examine the broadband needs of rural America. Will Gigabit Networks or wireless services best meet the needs of the nation’s rural communities? What options are rural communities missing without good-quality broadband? And when commercial providers are in short supply, how will non-profits, cooperatives and municipal broadband providers help fill the void? Hear the perspectives of a range of rural Internet providers.

Moderator:
Drew Clark - Chairman and Publisher, BroadbandBreakfast.com; Of Counsel, Kirton McConkie

Speaker:
Luis Reyes – Chief Executive Officer & General Manager, Kit Carson Electric
Will Aycock – CEO, Greenlight, the Gigabit Network in Wilson, North Carolina, that petitioned the Federal Communications Commission for the removal of state broadband restrictions
Ron Walters - CEO of PANGAEA of Tryon, North Carolina, the first broadband fiber nonprofit award-winning network honored by Broadband Communities Magazine a decade ago.
Bill Shilito – President, North Carolina Wireless, LLC

 


Wednesday, April 15

9:00 am – 9:50 am
Lessons From Successful Broadband Deployments
Join this session to learn and discuss the state of rural broadband. Hear actionable details about the innovative projects that are providing solutions in rural areas to create positive economic and community outcomes from broadband deployment.

Moderator:
Jason Whittet – Program Officer, IDC Research

Speakers:
Tony Wilhelm – Vice President, Affiniti
Mark Dzwonczyk – CEO, Nicholville Telephone
David Salway – Executive Director, NY State Broadband Program
Luis Reyes – Chief Executive Officer & General Manager, Kit Carson Electric
Walter Haase – General Manager, Navajo Tribal Utility Authority

 

10:00 am – 10:50 am
Broadband and the Farm
Broadband technology is an essential tool to those who are linked to the land – modern farmers and ranchers, landowners, builders, and loggers that feed and supply the nation. Their efforts and success drive a significant component of the USA and world economy. The panel will provide a commercial perspective of how broadband is needed on the farm, a state perspective on its importance to the farming and state economy, and discussion on how fiber and wireless networks are essential infrastructure to rural America.

Moderator:
Keith Montgomery – VP Rural Telecom Congress and CFO Declaration Networks Group Inc.

Speakers:
Mark Lewellen – Manager Spectrum Advocacy, John Deere & Company,
Dan Hunter – Assistant Commissioner for Water and Rural Affairs, Texas Dept. of Agriculture
Phillip K. Brown – Director of State/Federal Policy & Broadband Planning, Connected Nation

 

2:30 pm – 3:20 pm
The Internet of Things – Its Impact on Rural Communities
How Gigabit broadband will be used in rural settings. Your refrigerator can order groceries when you need them, your house can call the plumber when there’s a leak, share a diabetic’s blood sugar values with his doctor, turn on the irrigation system when the soil is too dry or wait if rain is forecast. Slow progress with medical devices illustrate some challenges. But the fitness industry is showing the way by exploiting ideas to integrate measurement, analysis and social media. Ubiquitous broadband with low latency and high capacity is critical to make it happen.

Moderator:
Jane Patterson – President, The View Forward – Go Forward

Speaker:
Mark Johnson – Chief Technology Officer and Vice President of Data Architecture, MCNC
John Chowdhury – Utility Practice Director, Fujitsu Network Communications

 

3:30 pm – 4:20 pm
Monitoring Rural America’s Health
Learn from the projects that have outstanding outcomes in rural and statewide telehealth networks. There will be plenty of time to ask questions and have real interactive discussions. Hear about how laws and regulations have impacts at state levels and privacy and security.

Moderator:
Galen Updike – Rural Telecom Congress (RTC)

Speaker:
David Kirby – Project Director, NC TeleHealth Network
Michael Keeling - Partner, Keeling Law Offices PC & Lobbyist for ATIC / Arizona TeleHealth

 

5:10 pm – 6:10 pm
Education and Its Impact at the Community Level
Related to “adequate broadband to assure quality of life,” diverse Community Anchor Institutions; libraries, schools, community colleges, eco-dev agencies, public safety, and health organizations, are all challenged with finding the most effective “best practices for training to outcomes.” New solutions are evolving across multiple platforms for innovation, from mobile devices to Gigacities, and across sectors, from health to digital entrepreneurship, and across America’s diverse demographics, particularly the 1:2 Americans who are low income and/or in poverty.

Moderator:
Frank Odasz – President, Lone Eagle Consulting

Speaker:
John Windhausen – Executive Director, Broadband (SHLB) Coalition
Myra Best – Executive Director, DigiLEARN

 

 


Thursday, April 16

9:40 am – 10:30 am
Plows to Tractors to Computers to Prosperity
The digital divide is not only about affordability, but also having the resources and knowledge available to effectively utilize broadband and its solutions. The ability to conduct business from anywhere depends on driving an understanding how to make the digital economy come true no matter where you live.

Michael Curri will delve into SNG’s research across the nation, including numerous rural areas to not only look into how rural homes and businesses are falling behind in broadband utilization, but will present possible solutions to help drive improvements.

Moderator:
Eric Ogle – RTC Treasurer, The Howard Baker Center for Public Policy

Speakers:
Larry Gates – Utilities Director, City of Chanute, Kansas
Michael Curri – Founder and President, Strategic Networks Group, Inc.
Maria Alvarez Stroud – Director, Broadband & E-Commerce Education Center, University of Wisconsin – Extension

 

10:40 am – 11:30 am
Who Will Gigafy Our Rural Infrastructure?
This session will focus on how a cross-sector partnership, as well as nonprofit and for profits cooperate to provide broadband now and the future ideas to take home in your toolkit with an added example of an exciting application in Texas. This will be an unusual opportunity to interact with a rural electric cooperative moving towards providing their customers broadband (North Carolina) and with Sunset Digital Communications, the oldest rural Fiber-to-the-Premises company in the USA still in operation, and its partnership with Powell Electric ( Tennessee and Virginia) and a major health initiative ( UT Health Northeast, the consortium was People’s Telephone’s BTOP educational and medical partner in creating the Northeast Texas Medical and Educational Fiber Optic Network. Texas)

Moderator:
Joel Mulder – Senior Director of Business Development, G4S Technology LLC

Speakers:
Marshall Cherry – Chief Operating Officer, Roanoke Electric Cooperative
Mickey Slimp – Executive Director, Northeast Texas Consortium of Colleges and Universities, UT Health Northeast
Paul Elswick – Owner/President & CEO, Sunset Digital Communications, Inc.

Rural Telecommunications Congress Members and Others Take Spotlight at Broadband Communities Summit

in Broadband's Impact/Expert Opinion/Fiber/Gigabit Networks/NTIA/Rural Utilities Service by

AUSTIN, Texas, April 4, 2014 – Next week, at the Broadband Communities Summit here in Austin, the Rural Telecommunications Congress will take center stage with a series of sessions on “The Bandwidth of the States,” “Financing Future Bandwidth,” “Digital Learning in the Classroom,” “Rural Innovation,” and — as a kicker — “Cool Things Rural Communities Are Doing With Broadband.”

At this marque event next week, I’ve been asked to lead the Rural Telecommunications Congress morning session on “The Bandwidth of the States” together with Galen Updike, immediate past president of the RTC.

Those wishing to attend the entire Broadband Communities event may do so by registering as members of the Rural Telecommunications Congress. RTC members are able to attend the event at the rate of $200, for an $895 value.

To participate, register at https://www.regonline.com/Register/Checkin.aspx?EventID=1260970 and use the registration code “RTC200″ (no quotation marks).

As members of the RTC Board, Galen and I have planned a series of morning events that will highlight progress in broadband over the past five years.

We are coming up on the fifth year anniversary of the State Broadband Initiative program. SBI, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s State Broadband Initiative program, has played a substantial role in enhancing broadband’s contribution to economic development. Anne Neville, the program director of SBI, has agreed to give our morning keynote on the subject.

After that, we’ll move directly into the “50 States in 50 Minutes” section, in which eight spokespeople from eight regions of the country will speak about the state of broadband in the states. This will be an opportunity for rapid-fire information about each of the states.

Several of the questions that will be address in this presentation include:
•    What is the state of broadband now versus five years ago in the regions?
•    What notable infrastructure projects have occurred over the past five years in the regions?
•    What notable projects to spur broadband adoption have taken place in the regions?
•    What are the future opportunity to public-private broadband efforts in the states within the regions? Are there any impediments to such progress in the states?
•    What role will SBI entities have following December 31, 2014? Have any of the SBI entities made public their plans to continue, or to discontinue, operations?
•    What role will the public safety network FirstNet play within the regions?
•    Are there any notable private-sector Gigabit Networks under development in the regions?

Below is the formal program, also available online:

9:40 am – 11:00 am
The Bandwidth of the States: Where They Stand in 2014

Keynote Presentation:

Anne Neville – Director, State Broadband Initiative of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information

The past five years have witnesses an explosion of broadband internet services, by providers and by the public sector. Stimulus projects including infrastructure investments, sustainable broadband programs, and state broadband initiatives have boosted awareness of the benefits of internet connectivity. Anne Neville, Director of the key federal broadband program working in collaboration with the states,will set the stage for our “50 States in 50 Minutes” presentation. She will be followed by spokesmen from eight regions to highlight the state of bandwidth in each of the 50 states.

50 States In 50 Minutes:

Where the states stand at the ending of BTOP and NTIA-SBDD. Metrics of past deployment of broadband. How the states are now poised for the future. All 50 states will be reviewed and commented on. A report will be available.

Speakers by Region:

Southwest:
Galen Updike – Former Chair, Rural Telecom Congress

New England:
Jason Whittet – Former Dep. Dir., Mass Broadband Institute

Mid-Atlantic:
David Salway – Director, New York State Broadband Program Office

Piedmont South:
Jane Smith Patterson – Chair, RTC.

Deep South:
David Moore – Director, Louisiana Broadband Initiative

Midwest:
Mike Wilson – CostQuest Associates

Great Plains:
Eric Mills – General Counsel, Connected Nation

Northwest:
Frank Odasz – President, Lone Eagle Consulting

11:10 am – 12:30 pm
Envisioning a Future for Broadband Deployment

Building on “50 States in 50 Minutes,” this session will look to the future for national broadband policy leadership. Informed by the State Broadband Initiative programs, as well as both a range of local, regional and national activities, this session will bring considerable depth and expertise to the next steps for broadband deployment. We’ll survey national developments, for-profit and non-profit Gigabit Network, legislative barriers to public broadband, and ongoing opportunities for public-private partnerships.

Moderator:
Drew Clark – Chairman and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast Club; Former Executive Director, Broadband Illinois

Speakers:
Rachelle Chong – Techwire.net; former California PUC
Lev Gonick – CEO of One Community, Cleveland
Christopher Mitchell – Institute for Local Self Reliance
Anne Neville – Director, State Broadband Initiative, NTIA, U.S. Dept of Commerce
David Shaw – Partner, Kirton McConkie; General Counsel, UTOPIA

 

Expert Panel: With Broadband, Markets Can Emerge Anywhere

in Broadband's Impact/The Innovation Economy by

DALLAS, May 2, 2011 – A panel of private industry experts assembled last week to discuss the impact of broadband on rural economies and how to best incorporate it during Rural Telcon at Broadband Properties Magazine’s 2011 summit.

Michael Curri, Founder and CEO of Strategic Networks Group, Inc. – a company that specializes in broadband deployment and development – began the panel by pointing out that broadband economies would not adequately grow without help and asking what can be done to spur adoption.

“We are the broadband economists, said Curri early on in his presentation. “Lessaiz faire isn’t going to get the market where we want it to go quickly enough.”

The key, he said, is to act on measurable data to assess needs and construct solutions.  When needs are properly assessed and solutions are designed and executed to meet those needs, the positive impact on economies could be significant.

He pointed to data collected in North Carolina, showing that despite the recent economic downturn, jobs gained in the internet economy outnumbered those lost by sevenfold and that regions with better broadband showed improved productivity.

Angela Wu, the Founder and President of Move It Online (MIO), presented similar findings with her organization in Washington State.  She identified as a major issue the reluctance of individuals and business owners who are unfamiliar with online technologies to transition from a purely brick-and-mortar commercial presence to one that is click-and-mortar.

“Have you thought about what you’re asking [rural communities] to do?” said Wu, acknowledging individuals’ hesitance to adopt broadband-base commerce before noting that the reticence was a hurdle, not a roadblock.

“It is absolutely doable and absolutely important even though it is a major shift in the way we’re asking people to think about it,” she continued.

Wu and MIO found that providing workshops to help business owners understand the tools at their disposal through workshops on broadband and social media.  Through those workshops, they found that business owners in Seattle’s Pike Place Market that had an online portion to their businesses drew 10 to 20 percent from it.

“What you can do to help them is to make this all very understandable and clear,” she said.

Wu went on to assert that communities that without meaningful broadband connections will increasingly experience a “brain drain,” as talented youth and business professionals flee to greener digital pastures.

Frank Odasz, President at Lone Eagle Consulting, which specializes in fast-track online Internet training for rural, remote, and indigenous learners, indicated a similar experience working to get small businesses online.

“How can you create value is the global question,” he told the audience, noting the power of personal experiences. “What people [are saying] is, ‘if this stuff is so great, show me a success story from others.’”

For his success story, Odasz showed a video telling the story of Shane Johnson, the owner of www.batsbatsbats.com.  Johnson, who runs his business from a town in rural Idaho, began with a small online shop selling baseball bats.  Five years later, he is on his fifth location – having outgrown the previous four – a 12,000-square-foot warehouse with a storefront.  Johnson does 99 percent of his business outside of Idaho.

During the question-and-answer portion of the panel, the participants stressed the notion that given the infrastructure and some help to create the know-how, anywhere can be the start of another success story or economic revival.

“Once [people are] onboard successfully, they will only grow,” said Wu. “You’re helping to support emerging markets in your state.”

 

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