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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. […]

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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.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney at The CommLaw Group. He has closely tracked the trends in and mechanics of digital infrastructure for 20 years, and has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers navigate coverage, identify markets, broker infrastructure, and operate in the public right of way. The articles and posts on Broadband Breakfast and affiliated social media, including the BroadbandCensus Twitter feed, are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

Education

National Non-Profit to Launch Joint Initiative to Close Broadband Affordability and Homework Gap

EducationSuperHighway is signing up partners and will launch November 4.

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Evan Marwell, founder and CEO of Education Super Highway.

WASHINGTON, October 18, 2021 – National non-profit Education Super Highway is set to launch a campaign next month that will work with internet service providers to identify students without broadband and expand programs that will help connect the unconnected.

On November 4, the No Home Left Offline initiative will launch to close the digital divide for 18 million American households that “have access to the Internet but can’t afford to connect,” according to a Monday press release.

The campaign will publish a detailed report with “crucial data insights into the broadband affordability gap and the opportunities that exist to close it,” use data to identify unconnected households and students, and launch broadband adoption and free apartment Wi-Fi programs in Washington D.C.

The non-profit and ISPs will share information confidentially to identify students without broadband at home and “enable states and school districts to purchase Internet service for families through sponsored service agreements,” the website said.

The initiative will run on five principles: identify student need, have ISPs create sponsored service offerings for school districts or other entities, set eligibility standards, minimize the amount of information necessary to sign up families, and protect privacy.

The non-profit said 82 percent of Washington D.C.’s total unconnected households – a total of just over 100,000 people – have access to the internet but can’t afford to connect.

“This ‘broadband affordability gap’ keeps 47 million Americans offline, is present in every state, and disproportionately impacts low-income, Black, and Latinx communities,” the release said. “Without high-speed Internet access at home, families in Washington DC can’t send their children to school, work remotely, or access healthcare, job training, the social safety net, or critical government services.”

Over 120 regional and national carriers have signed up for the initiative.

The initiative is another in a national effort to close the “homework gap.” The Federal Communications Commission is connected schools, libraries and students using money from the Emergency Connectivity Fund, which is subsidizing devices and connections. It has received $5 billion in requested funds in just round one.

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Education

Federal Communications Commission Says $5 Billion Requested for Emergency Connectivity Fund — in Just Round One!

The program is designed to help schools, libraries and students.

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Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

August 25, 2021—Two months after launching the first round of applications, the Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday that the Emergency Connectivity Fund has received more than $5 billion in funding requests.

The requests, which came from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, are for 9.1 million connected devices and 5.4 million broadband connections.

The $7-billion program, whose first round closed August 13, provides funding for schools and libraries to buy laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and general connectivity is expected to help students stay connected at school and off school premises, addressing the “homework gap” made paramount during the pandemic.

The money is to be used for said services and devices purchased between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022. The program will open a second round for applications due to a spike in new coronavirus cases, which will run from September 28 to October 13.

“The Emergency Connectivity Fund is the single largest effort to bring connectivity and devices to students who lack them – and this robust response from applicants shows the tremendous need in our communities,” FCC acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a Wednesday press release.

“This funding is an important down payment in closing the Homework Gap so that all children, regardless of their circumstances or where they live, have access to the tools they need to succeed,” she added.

Congress authorized the program as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The FCC has previously noted that the Emergency Broadband Benefit had proved out that there is demand for such a program and that the ECF would help fill the gap.

Breakdown by state

The FCC included a breakdown of the first-round requests by state. California was the top requester at roughly $812 million, followed by New York with $559 million, Texas with $496 million, Florida with $264 million, New Jersey with $225 million, Arizona with $200 million, Illinois at $197 million, Georgia $183 million, North Carolina with $149 million, Michigan with $108 million, Ohio with $103 million, and Puerto Rico with $102 million, and Washington rounding out the 9-digit requesters with $101 million.

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Education

NTIA Releases Details on Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Project

The $285-million program will help connect minority educational institutions.

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Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo

August 4, 2021–The agency managing telecommunications policy for the commerce department has released details Tuesday on eligibility for its $285-million grant program for broadband access for minority educational institutions.

The Connecting Minority Communities pilot program, announced in June, will address the lack of broadband access, connectivity and equity at historically Black colleges or universities, Tribal colleges or universities, and minority-serving institutions.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration released a notice of funding opportunity for the program, established via the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021, which will grant funds to eligible recipients to purchase broadband service or equipment, hire IT personnel, operate a minority business enterprise or a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, and facilitate educational instruction, including remote instruction.

Eligible institutions include 501 Hispanic-serving institutions, 336 Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institutions, 104 predominantly Black institutions, 102 historically Black colleges and universities, 66 Alaska native-serving institutions and native Hawaiian-serving institutions, 37 Tribal colleges and universities, and 32 native American-serving non-Tribal institutions.

The deadline to submit applications is December 1, 2021.

“Communities of color have faced systemic barriers to affordable broadband access since the beginning of the digital age,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo in a press release.

“The investments we make as part of the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program will help communities that are struggling with access, adoption and connectivity, and will inform our path forward as we seek to finally close the digital divide across the country,” she added.

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