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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.

Education

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.

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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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Education

Fiber Broadband Companies and Consultants Tout Their Work for Social Good

Fiber providers, equipment companies and consultants discussed their work in communities in a session at Fiber Connect

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Photo of Ritchie Sorrells of GVTC Communications, Hu Meena of C Spire, Ji Soo Song of Education Department's Office of Educational Technology and Keven Morgan of Clearfield by Drew Clark (left to right).

June 16, 2022 – Leading fiber broadband platforms are hoping to positively impact future generations beyond fiber deployment through education programs for youth, scholarship awards, and traditional community service events, said panelists at Fiber Connect event Tuesday.

The panel discussion, according to promotional material for the panel in advance of the session at the conference, “represented a new level of commitment based on the belief that operators have a responsibility to make the communities they serve even better.” The showcase panel was a way for the Fiber Broadband Association to highlight the work of providers, equipment vendors, consultants and government officials.

Companies are particularly focused on how to influence following generations for good. C-Spire is working with schools in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education, and it provides programs for youth to learn coding and participate in coding challenges hosted by C-Spire.

Working with the state of Mississippi, fiber provider C-Spire made computer science education available to all K-12 students in the state and donated $1 million for teacher training. C-Spire also provided more than $3 million in scholarships for higher education.

GVTC Communications, a consultant to the telecom industry, works with local nonprofits, churches, schools, and businesses to donate full thanksgiving meals to families in need every year since 2012.

Listening to the needs of the community is essential to make an impact, agreed the panel. “When you have listening as your core value, you find out things that you can really make a difference in,” said Kevin Morgan, chief marketing officer at Clearfield, a provider of equipment for fiber builds.

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Education

Education Executives Tout Artificial Intelligence Benefits for Classroom Learning

Artificial intelligence can help fill in gaps when teacher resources are limited, an event heard.

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Screenshot of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation event

WASHINGTON, May 25, 2022 – Artificial intelligence can help fill in gaps when teacher resources are limited and provide extra help for students who need individualized teaching, experts said at an event hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation on Tuesday.

As policy makers weigh the options for a structure for AI in the classroom, panelists agreed on its benefits for both teachers and students. Michelle Zhou, CEO of AI company Juji Inc., said AI technology in the classroom can be tools and applications like chatbots for real-time questions during class, and post-class questions at home for when the teacher is not available.

Lynda Martin, director of learning strategy for strategic solutions at learning company McGraw Hill, said AI provides the extra help students need, but sometimes are too shy to ask.

When a teacher has a high volume of students, it is difficult to effectively help and connect with each student individually, Martin said. AI gives the teacher crucial information to get to know the student on a more personal level as it transmits the student’s misconceptions and detects areas of need. AI can bring student concerns to the teacher and foster “individualized attention” she added.

Privacy and security concerns

Jeremy Roschelle from Digital Promise, an education non-profit, raise the privacy and security concerns in his cautious support of the idea. He noted that there needs to be more information about who has access to the data and what kinds of data should be used.

Beside bias and ethical issues that AI could pose, Roschelle cautioned about the potential harms AI could present, including misdetecting a child’s behavior, resulting in potential educational setbacks.

To utilize the technology and ensure education outcomes, Sharad Sundararajan, co-founder of learning company Merlyn Minds, touched on the need for AI training. As Merlyn Minds provides digital assistant technology to educators, he noted the company’s focus on training teachers and students on various forms of AI tech to enhance user experience.

There is an “appetite” from schools that are calling for this, said Sundararajan. As policy makers contemplate a strategic vision for AI in the classroom, he added that AI adoption in the classroom around the country will require algorithmic work, company partnerships, and government efforts for the best AI success.

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