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

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. […]



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.

Jane Patterson, President, The View Forward – Go Forward

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.

Drew Clark – Chairman and Publisher,; Of Counsel, Kirton McConkie

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.

Jason Whittet – Program Officer, IDC Research

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.

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

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.

Jane Patterson – President, The View Forward – Go Forward

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.

Galen Updike – Rural Telecom Congress (RTC)

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.

Frank Odasz – President, Lone Eagle Consulting

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.

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

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)

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

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.

Breakfast Media LLC CEO Drew Clark has led the Broadband Breakfast community since 2008. An early proponent of better broadband, better lives, he initially founded the Broadband Census crowdsourcing campaign for broadband data. As Editor and Publisher, Clark presides over the leading media company advocating for higher-capacity internet everywhere through topical, timely and intelligent coverage. Clark also served as head of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, a state broadband initiative.


Subsidies for Hotspot Devices a ‘Great Idea,’ FCC Chairwoman Says

The commission has been exploring the broadening of the E-Rate program, a high-cost program under the Universal Service Fund.



Photo of Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel (right) at the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Wednesday

WASHINGTON, January 18, 2023 — Federal Communications Commissioner Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said Wednesday at the Conference of Mayors that an agency program subsidizing mobile hotspot devices is a “great idea” and that there may be some activity on that front in the future.

The chairwoman was fielding a comment from a mayor of a Texas city, who said that his jurisdiction has a program that lends out connectivity hubs – allowing others to connect to the device – in parts of the town for residents seeking internet. He asked whether that’s something that the FCC could fund.

“That’s a great idea,” said Rosenworcel to a packed breakout room including mayors from cities across the country.

Rosenworcel noted that the commission has been exploring the broadening of the E-Rate program, a high-cost program under the Universal Service Fund that subsidizes library and school broadband connectivity.

She said the commission may be able to expand the program to encompass funding for hotspot devices.

“Stay tuned,” she added, “because I think you’re onto something.”

Groups have, in the past, urged the E-Rate program to go beyond the schools and libraries and to households. An existing program, called the Emergency Connectivity Fund, helps students get connectivity outside of school.

Affordable Connectivity Program needs mayoral outreach

The chairwoman also touched on the need for mayors to help get the word out on the Affordable Connectivity Program, a $14.2 billion initiative that provides a broadband subsidy of up-to $30 per month to low-income families and up-to $75 for households on tribal lands.

The FCC said roughly 16 million Americans are on the program, but it suspects there are many more households that are eligible. That’s why it has set up four outreach programs to get the word out.

When asked about the longevity of the ACP, the chairwoman said there is still a lot of money leftover – some estimate over $10 billion – indicating a need to get the word out to fill the gaps.

But she noted that if it comes to it, the agency may need to go back to Congress and ask for its long-term survival because it’s “too important to stop.”

Open RAN technologies encouraged for BEAD funding

The small conference also included a cybersecurity official from the White House, who provided an overview of strategies for cities to protect themselves from attacks.

Anne Neuberger, a White House advisor for cybersecurity, said one recommendation for cities applying for federal broadband funding – specifically from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program – is to use that money toward open radio access network technologies.

Open RAN is a mobile wireless protocol that allows for the interoperability of devices, allowing telecommunications companies to forgo relying on proprietary technologies from companies deemed a threat to national security, such as Huawei and ZTE.

The NTIA is currently fielding comments on how it should craft a $1.5 billion program spawned by the Chips and Science Act that seeks to explore alternatives to wireless equipment.

Last month, the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada signed onto a commitment to “ensuring the security and resilience of our telecommunications networks, including by fostering a diverse supply chain and influencing the development of future telecommunications technologies such as 6G.

“Collectively, we recognize that open and interoperable architectures are one way of creating a more open, diverse and innovative market,” a collective statement said.

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Workforce Training Gap Next Great Challenge for Broadband, Conference Hears

There is a widespread concern that there is a lack of skills training provided for broadband deployment and maintenance.



Photo of Nirali Patel, USTelecom Senior VP of Policy and Advocacy, photo from dataIQ

WASHINGTON, December 15, 2022 – As the broadband labor market is expected to face challenges, more skills training must be deployed to find and train applicants, according to an advisor.

As the National Telecommunications and Information Administration prepares to disburse billions in funding from its Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment infrastructure program, questions have been raised about whether the nation has the workforce for the added infrastructure.

Jordon Sims, founder of Imperium Global Advisors,  said at the 40th Annual Institute on Telecommunications Policy and Regulation on Thursday that he expects the workforce to be the next great challenge because of the deficiency in the labor force and lack of skills training provided. More skills training programs would efficiently prepare applicants to enter the workforce, as well as expand the number of applicants eligible through the provided skills training.

He recommended the government take an active role to foster and retain a strong broadband workforce. To achieve this goal, Sims said skills training programs should obtain further funding to expand the skills they teach and the number of programs offered. New and potential broadband employees should have skills training and be able to work in broadband without much prior experience.

The Wireless Infrastructure Association and the Fiber Broadband Association have identified these issues and have been working on partnerships to address the labor concern.

On a Broadband Breakfast panel on Wednesday, experts discussed the need for states to use BEAD funding to build a skilled and diverse workforce.  An expected labor shortage is expected to occur and expanding skills training will help develop skills for potential applicants.

On a separate panel from the event, Nirali Patel, senior vice president of policy and advocacy at industry association USTelecom, said underrepresented students must also be prepared for jobs in technology through skills training provided through federal programs such as BEAD.

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Metaverse Can Serve as a Supplement, Not Replacement, For Educators: Experts

The virtual world where avatars can meet as if they were in real life can be a companion for education.



Screenshot of the Brookings event Tuesday

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2022 – Experts said at a Brookings Institution event said Tuesday that while the “metaverse” can go a long way toward improving education for some students, it should serve as a supplement to those educational goals.

The metaverse refers to a platform of 3D virtual worlds where avatars, or virtual characters, meet as if they were in the real world. The concept has been toyed with by Facebook parent Meta and is being used as a test for the educational space.

“The metaverse is a world that is accessible to students and teachers across the globe that allows shared interactions without boundaries in a respectful optimistic way,” Simran Mulchandani, founder of education app Project Rangeet, said at Tuesday’s event.

Panelists stated that as the metaverse and education meet, researchers, educators, policymakers and digital designers should take the lead, so tech platforms do not dictate educational opportunities.

“We have to build classrooms first, not tech first,” said Mulchandani.

Rebecca Kantar, the head of education at Roblox – a video game platform that allows players to program games – added that as the metaverse is still emerging and being constructed, “we can be humble in our attempt to find the highest and best way to bring the metaverse” into the classroom for the best education for the future.

Anant Agarwal, a professor at MIT and chief open education officer for online learning platform edX, stated the technology of the metaverse has the potential to make “quality and deep education accessible to everybody everywhere.”

Not a replacement for real social experiences

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, senior fellow of the global economy and development at the Center for Universal Education, said that while the metaverse brings potential to improve learning, it is not a complete replacement for the social experience a student has in the classroom.

“The metaverse can’t substitute for social interaction. It can supplement.”

Mulchandani noted the technology of the metaverse cannot replace the teacher, but rather can serve to solve challenges in the classroom.

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