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Broadband Infrastructure to Rural Areas is on the Move at the Broadband Breakfast Club

WASHINGTON, October 21, 2011 – Rural broadband providers, national union members, federal agency officials and state broadband administrators squared off on Tuesday at the Broadband Breakfast Club’s keynote and panel presentations on “Bringing Broadband Infrastructure to Rural Areas: Where is the Progress?”

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Highlights from “Bringing Broadband Infrastructure to Rural Areas: Where is the Progress?” from BroadbandBreakfast.com

Complete Program

“Bringing Broadband Infrastructure to Rural Areas: Where is the Progress?” from BroadbandBreakfast.com

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WASHINGTON, Friday, October 21, 2011 – Rural broadband providers, national union members, federal agency officials and state broadband administrators squared off on Tuesday at the Broadband Breakfast Club’s keynote and panel presentations on “Bringing Broadband Infrastructure to Rural Areas: Where is the Progress?”

Event Highlights

Highlights from “Bringing Broadband Infrastructure to Rural Areas: Where is the Progress?” from BroadbandBreakfast.com

Complete Program

“Bringing Broadband Infrastructure to Rural Areas: Where is the Progress?” from BroadbandBreakfast.com

Moderator, Jerry Hagstrom of the Hagstrom Report, set the stage for the morning’s discussion by highlighting the necessity for broadband in Rural America.  High speed internet is not only crucial for telemedicine, education and access to Native American communities but is important for general rural development and prosperity including the ability of the farming sector to make equipment repairs and access information about markets.

Undersecretary for Rural Development of the United States Department of Agriculture, Dallas Tonsager provided the keynote.  Tonsager is proud of RUS’s progress on loans and grants awarded through the broadband stimulus initiative and is anxiously awaiting the Federal Communication Commission’s Universal Service Proposal to see how it would benefit rural communities.

The Undersecretary expressed the importance of different technologies like wireless and fiber in addressing the needs of different communities. “It takes an eclectic set of solutions to meet the challenge and get out there and serve that broad area of the US…the stakes are high.”

Tonsager was pleased with the $3.5 billion in stimulus dollars that went to support grant and loan projects.  He mentioned that while over 100 projects are in the act of construction or completed there are some that are moving along slower than expected.  Those projects he stressed are very large and require intense planning in order to be executed properly.  All funds are slated to be spent by 2015.

Tonsager also noted that over 110 million dollars have been allocated to 25 projects aimed to help tribal communities.

“How do we keep moving forward?” asked Tonsager, “we have to be persistent and focus on this critical period of investment.”  He also stressed the importance of the Community Connect Programs which focus on infrastructure to develop community centers that provide free public access to broadband.

Tonsager also touted his staff’s focus on the “Build Out and Build On” efforts. “The intension is not just to get to the homes, but to provide them with the support to help them build their businesses.”

Addressing the USF proposal the Undersecretary said “With the proper support agricultural and rural communities will be the ones that help get this country out of a recession.”

Hagstrom then asked the Undersecretary about the threat of budget reductions on the agency and how cuts would affect programs that support rural development.

Tonsager said while he realizes the need for deficit reduction, there is strong support for rural development.  He also noted that he spends a lot of time making the case that the agriculture community needs the rural development programs.

Tonsager said that if faced with deficits cuts, there are possibilities for consolidation of some of the 42 programs currently operating under RUS and there are additional steps that can be taken to target better loan opportunities in order to keep delinquencies low.

The panel that followed consisted of six experts with varying perspectives on the RUS programs, the USF proposal, national goals for broadband adoption. These six included: Chandler Goule, Vice President of Government Relations, National Farmers Union, James Kohler, Deputy Director of Enterprise Technology Services, Alaska Department of Administration, Forbes Mercy, President of Washington Broadband Inc & Board Member/VP & Legislative Committee Chair, Wireless Internet Service Provider Association (WISPA), Leif Oveson, Director of Government Affairs, National Telecommunication Cooperative Association (NTCA), Jaqueline Johnson Pata, Executive Director, National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and David Russell, Solutions Marketing Director, Calix and Head of the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Council’s Regulatory Affairs Committee.

Goule expressed NFU’s support of broadband adoption and reiterated the importance of broadband in the daily lives and tasks of the farming industry.  Rural development in broadband is essential to economic vitality of the farming community.

Kohler from Alaska’s main concern is “when is rural America going to get adequate infrastructure.”  He said, “if you take the remarks of Chairman Genachowski at face value… it will not be anytime soon.”

Kohler was also concerned about the concept of the auction program; he stated that “the further you get from population density, the fewer competitors you are going to get for USF funding.”  Kohler added that Rural America’s best friends are their state commissions, and he was surprised that many states have not been more vocal about the role of state authorities leading up to the FCC’s proposal.

“What we do not see,” said Kohler “is how great the challenge is to actually connect many of these areas.”  He believes that rural carriers are going to be hard pressed to meet many of their obligations because of the severe lack of infrastructure in many rural places.

Kohler feels that the government should be focused on getting everyone up to even 2G or 3G before they worry about meeting their goal of 4G.

Mercy made a strong case for wireless internet service providers and claimed that those providing fixed wireless have been the true innovators in the most rural areas.  Mercy said that there is a misconception that there are only two types of broadband providers, cable and telecom companies.  WISPs can ignore the density metrics used by the major carriers that seek 1000-3000 homes per square mile.  In some areas of Texas Fixed Wireless Service Providers provide broadband to areas that only have 10.48 homes per square mile.  Mercy said that this important information “will provide clarity and credibility in preventing federally funded aid to competitors in the form of grants or USF when an existing fixed wireless provider is already an incumbent.”

Obstacles for fixed wireless come from the vast swaths of unused spectrum and the inefficient use of white spaces.  In the end, Mercy noted that fixed wireless equipment is much less expensive than the equipment used by mobile providers and can be deployed much faster in rural areas.

Oveson from NTCA highlighted the fact that it can get very expensive when rural independent service providers serve 40% of the US land mass with only 5% of the US population.  He addressed the slower pace of some of the RUS loan and grant infrastructure build out projects, but understood some of the issues with historical preservation areas and fiber shortages that have slowed down some of the projects.

NCAI represents 565 tribes throughout the country but there are only 9 tribal telcos.  While Pata was proud of the telemedicine developments in the tribal communities she stressed that with unemployment levels ranging from 20-90% broadband deployment to tribal is the key for future economic development

Russell was speaking on behalf of Calix as well as the Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) Council that represents 250 service providers and vendors.  Calix is the largest electronic vendor to rural markets; they provide DSL as well as fiber to the home.  Russell stated that all technologies that provide broadband require fiber at some point, fiber infrastructure is very important even for wireless providers.

Russell believed in a three prong model of success first prong being USF support, second prong being support from RUS programs and the essential third prong is lies in the success of BTOP and its focus stimulating middle mile and last mile infrastructure build out.

Russell ended his statement with a note of caution for the USF proposal that focuses on the cap and a capital fund model. Russell suggests that the FCC focus on an operating fund model, “giving people an annuity every year allows them to leverage private capital.”

A very interesting question was raised by Stephanie Joyce from Arent Fox, who asked the panelists whether USF should focus on income and not just census numbers. “Would you support means testing of any kind in connection to USF funding for broadband in rural areas?”

Both Kohler and Pata were against means testing citing concerns that it would reduce incentive to build out to the last mile. Oveson was against means tests because it would add another step of uncertainty for the providers, “a provider might hesitate because they would not know what part of their constituency would apply.”

Mercy on the other hand believed if Telco’s build out they should build out all the way.  He also noted that the customer should be able to choose who they give the voucher to provide them this that service.

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Broadband Breakfast on August 3, 2022 – How Yellowstone Fiber is Bringing High-Capacity Broadband to Montana

The non-profit Yellowstone Fiber uses a unique business model in the thriving community of Bozeman, Montana, and the surrounding county.

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Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. Watch the event on Broadband Breakfast, or on Twitter, Facebook. or LinkedIn. No need to register to attend via Zoom: This conversation is pre-recorded.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022, 12 Noon ET – How the Non-profit Yellowstone Fiber is Bringing High-Capacity Broadband in Montana

Join us on Broadband Breakfast, or our on streaming channels on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, for a pre-recorded session discussing Yellowstone Fiber, a non-profit entity offering high-speed symmetrical broadband services to Bozeman, Montana, and the surrounding Gallatin County, Montana.

Panelists:

  • Greg Metzger, CEO, Yellowstone Fiber
  • Kim McKinley, Chief Marketing Officer, UTOPIA Fiber
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Panelist resources:

Kim McKinley helps lead UTOPIA Fiber as its Deputy Director and Chief Marketing Officer. In 2010, she joined the network as a member of its turnaround team, and has helped cement today’s UTOPIA Fiber as the fastest-growing, highest-rated, and most-successful Open Access network in the United States.

Greg Metzger is the CEO of Yellowstone Fiber.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he served as head of a State Broadband Initiative, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.

WATCH HERE, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook.

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

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Broadband Breakfast on July 27, 2022 – Bringing Broadband to Rural America: A Case Study in Morgan, Utah

Following up on UTOPIA Fiber’s buildout to Morgan City, we’ll look at benefits of broadband for this rural community

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See “Morgan City Fiber Swap Model Catching On,” Broadband Breakfast, July 28, 2022.

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. Watch the event on Broadband Breakfast, or REGISTER HERE to join the conversation.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022, 12 Noon ET – Bringing Broadband to Rural America: A Case Study in Morgan, Utah

Bringing broadband to a rural community like Morgan City, Utah, is never an easy task. But in 2019, Morgan, a community on the least-populated side of the Wasatch Mountains without even a stoplight, found itself on the wrong side of the digital divide. Into the mix stepped UTOPIA Fiber, an open access network in Utah primarily serving the more populous communities on the west side of the Wasatch front. Following up on a Broadband Communities 2019 article telling the story of UTOPIA Fiber’s buildout to Morgan City, this Broadband Breakfast Live session will examine the impact of bringing broadband to this rural community. Join us at 12 Noon ET.

Panelists:

  • Steve Gale, Mayor, Morgan City, Utah
  • Lynne Yocom, Fiber Optics Manager, Utah Department of Transportation
  • Roger Timmerman, Executive Director, UTOPIA Fiber
  • Warren Woodward, Director of Broadband Service, XMission Internet
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Panelist resources:

  • From UTOPIA Fiber: A Model Open Access Network, Broadband Communities, November-December 2019
    • The rural community of Morgan, Utah, is where UTOPIA Fiber’s vision for gradual community-by-community network expansion is most fully realized.A rural community without even a stoplight, Morgan is on the least-populated side of the Wasatch Mountains. It was left in the lurch when Comcast left town and stopped providing service. (CenturyLink’s DSL was unreliable.) But with a municipal power system, Morgan felt comfortable managing lines and poles. The community began exploring options to bring a new broadband provider to town.“The more we researched it, the more comfortable we felt about it,” says Ty Bailey, Morgan city manager. “More than economic development, this is just basic service” that the city needs to offer if no one else will. UTOPIA Fiber’s willingness to bring the open-access model to Morgan became “a really good solution for us.”
    • As with any fiber-to-the-home network, UTOPIA Fiber’s costs are a mixture of one-time infrastructure costs and ongoing costs for backhaul transport, network operation and internet services. People associated with the UTOPIA Fiber network speak of the 30 percent penetration rate as an important threshold for profitability, even in rural communities such as Morgan….
    • “We are thrilled to bring UTOPIA Fiber to our growing community,” said Morgan City’s mayor. “Our residents and businesses have been in dire need of better, faster and more reliable options for internet, and UTOPIA Fiber will be providing the best possible solution for our city.”

Steve Gale began his position as Mayor of Morgan City in January 2022. He attended high school in Morgan and married his high school sweetheart.  He is thrilled that his family has also made their homes in Morgan and are close by. He is very patriotic and loves the “Red, White and Blue.”

As the fiber optics manager for the Utah Department of Transportation, Lynne Yocom manages the he communications to traffic devices such as traffic signals, cameras, variable message signs and anything else that needs connectivity to the system. The system is a closed network of just under a thousand miles of fiber optic cable. She work with telecommunication companies to expand the UDOT network through fiber-optic trades.

Roger Timmerman has been serving as UTOPIA Fiber’s Executive Director since 2016 and has been a technology management professional in telecommunications and information technology for over 15 years. Roger has been designing and building networks throughout his career in various roles including Vice President of Engineering for Vivint Wireless, CTO for UTOPIA Fiber, Network Engineer for iProvo, and Network Product Manager for Brigham Young University. Roger earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Information Technology from Brigham Young University.

Warren Woodward is the Director of Broadband Service at XMission LC, the first Salt Lake City based Internet Service Provider and established in 1993. XMission is recognized as being the largest service provider on the UTOPIA Fiber network, a continually expanding municipal fiber project that spans 19 cities in Utah across the western United States.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he served as head of a State Broadband Initiative, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.

WATCH HERE, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook.

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

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Broadband Breakfast on July 20, 2022 – Summer of Broadband: Indiana

Broadband Breakfast Live Online continues its ‘Summer of Broadband’ series with this special program involving Indiana’s broadband leaders.

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See “Indiana Fosters Relationships in Preparation for Federal Broadband Funds,” Broadband Breakfast, July 21, 2022.

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. Watch the event on Broadband Breakfast, or REGISTER HERE to join the conversation.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022, 12 Noon ET – Summer of Broadband: Indiana

State broadband offices will play a critical role in the rollout of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program. In the months of July and August, Broadband Breakfast will take the pulse of broadband efforts at the state level in visits to about half-dozen states across the country. On July 20, we will speak with key officials, including the State Infrastructure Administrator and Chief Broadband Officer of the Office of Gov. Eric Holcomb, the Program Manager for the Director of the Indiana Broadband Office of Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch, and the director of the Purdue Center for Regional Development. Join us at 12 Noon ET to learn what the Hoosier state is doing in bringing a plan together on broadband policy.

Panelists:

  • Earnie Holtrey, Program Manager for the Director of the Indiana Broadband Office, State of Indiana
  • Jodi Golden, State Infrastructure Administrator and Chief Broadband Officer, State of Indiana
  • Roberto Gallardo, Director, Purdue Center for Regional Development
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Panelist resources:

Earnie Holtry was served as the Broadband Project Manager for the Indiana Broadband Office since early 2020. Prior to this he served as a community liaison for the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, both under the direction of Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch. Holtry works with communities and providers offering technical assistance for planning, inclusion/equity, and construction funding.  He also administers the broadband ready communities’ program as he fulfills the Office’ mission of serving as the “one-stop-shop” for all things broadband in Indiana. Earnie has a B.A. in Psychology from The Ohio State University.

Jodi Golden was appointed State Infrastructure Coordinator in March of 2022, and previously she served as Co-Chief of Staff/Chief of Agency Operations for Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch. Golden identifies, analyzes and assists in prioritizing the types of funds available through the bipartisan infrastructure law, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. She leads and coordinates activities across relevant state agencies, local governments and stakeholder groups in anticipation of the formula and competitive grants through the IIJA. In her work as Chief of Agency Operations, Golden oversaw the agencies within the Lt. Governor’s portfolio. These consist of the Indiana Department of Agriculture, Office of Community & Rural Affairs, Indiana Destination Development Corporation, Indiana Housing & Community Development Association & the Indiana Broadband Office. Before that, she served as Executive Director of the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, the Illinois Capital Development Board and the Indiana Education Savings Authority. She holds a B.S. in Speech Communication: Public Relations and a M.P.A. from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

Roberto Gallardo is Director of the Purdue Center for Regional Development and an Agricultural Economics associate professor. He holds an electronics engineering undergraduate degree, a master’s in economic development, and a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration. Gallardo has worked with rural communities over the past 17 years conducting local and regional community economic development, including use of technology for development. He has authored more than 100 articles and reports including peer-reviewed and news-related regarding rural trends, socioeconomic analysis, industrial clusters, the digital divide, and leveraging broadband applications for community economic development. He also has assisted the state of Indiana implement their broadband programs acting as their Next Level Broadband Connections Director for six months. He is also the author of the bookResponsive Countryside: The Digital Age & Rural Communities,” which highlights a 21st century community development model that helps rural communities transition to, plan for, and prosper in the digital age. Dr. Gallardo is a TEDx speaker and his work has been featured in a WIRED magazine article, a MIC.com documentary, and a RFDTV documentary.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he served as head of a State Broadband Initiative, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.

Photo by Braden Egli used with permission

WATCH HERE, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook.

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

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