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Register to Attend the Rural Telecommunications Congress Program at Broadband Communities Summit

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DALLAS, April 6, 2017 – The Rural Telecommunications Congress program at the 2017 Broadband Communities Summit here on May 1-4, 2017, will feature panelists on the Universal Service Administrative Corporation’s role in bringing broadband to underserved and unserved communities, the role of broadband mapping in today’s telecommunications ecosystem, a case study of bringing broadband to Appalachia, a robust discussion of co-working spaces and the impact they can have on rural communities, and many other topics.

REGISTER TODAY to attend the RTC sessions by using the Rural Telecommunications Code discount code of RTC350. This registration code entitles you to the lowest possible rate to attend not only the RTC sessions, but the entire Broadband Communities Summit program. The cost is $350.

Below is a complete list of the Rural Broadband Track at the summit. In coming days, I’ll be highlighting individual programs in separate articles laying out what you can expect at each session.

Tuesday, May 2

3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Track Session
A VOICE FROM WASHINGTON
Connecting Rural America: How the Universal Service Fund is Bringing Broadband to Underserved and Unserved Communities

A discussion of the strategically important Universal Service Fund and ongoing FCC modernization of the federal program to support broadband infrastructure as well as voice service. This session will cover high-level changes at USAC, which administers the $10 billion program, along with an overview of the four programs that make up the fund. It will also take a closer look at the High Cost program, which accounts for nearly half of the entire Universal Service Fund, as the FCC transforms it to subsidize broadband with the new Connect America Fund. In addition, this session will provide an update on the new HUBB (High Cost Universal Broadband) portal, which will collect geolocated broadband deployment data from carriers showing exactly where they are building out mass-market, high-speed Internet service.

Moderator:
Keith Montgomery
– CFO, Declaration Networks, Group, Inc.

Panelists:
Mark Sweeney
– COO, Universal Service Administrative Company  (USAC)
Habib Simab – Director of Operation -High Cost Program, Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC)
Bill Johnson – GIS Director, Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC)


4:10 pm – 5:00 pm
Track Session
MAPPING BETTER BROADBAND
What are Government Officials and Private Companies Doing to Fill the Void?

Understanding the locations where high-speed internet service is available has never been more important to the Federal Communications Commission, the Universal Service Administrative Corporation, and a range of federal and state government agencies. Yet the end of the State Broadband Initiative puts data-collection efforts at a disadvantage. What are government official and private companies doing to fill the void?

Moderator:
Drew Clark
– President, Rural Telecommunications Congress; Editor & Publisher, BroadbandBreakfast.com

Panelist:
Brian Rathbone
– Broadband Planner, Broadband Catalysts
Steve Rosenberg – Chief Data Officer, Federal Communications Commission
Bill Johnson – GIS Director, Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC)

Wednesday, May 3

9:00 am – 9:50 am
Track Session
Broadband is the New Coal: How Appalachia is Tackling Broadband
What the Appalachian Regional Commission has done to spur the development of broadband and technology-based economic development to help offset the loss of the coal economy in communities from Pennsylvania to Tennessee.

Moderator:
Eric Ogle
– Treasurer, Rural Telecommunications Congress; Senior Consultant, Magellan Advisors

Panelists:
Michael Curri – President, SNG (making a short presentation about broadband in the states)
Mark DeFalco – Manager, Appalachian Regional Commission
Lee Brown – General Manager, Erwin Utilities, Erwin, TN
Nathaniel Watkins – CIO, Garrett County, MD
Cheryl DeBerry – Natural Resources Business Specialist, Garrett County, MD


10:00 am – 10:50 am
Track Session
Learn from the Winners
(Presented with NTCA)
Find out what earned three showcase communications companies the NTCA’s prestigious Smart Rural Community Showcase Award, given for promoting rural broadband networks and the broadband-enabled applications that communities can leverage to foster innovative economic development, commerce, education, health care, government services, public safety and security and more efficient energy distribution and use.

Moderator:
Josh Seidemann
– Vice President of Policy, NTCA

Presenters:
Scott Behn – CEO, Mossaic Telecom
Brian Thomason – CEO, Blue Valley Network Companies
George Plisinki, II – Telecom Operations Manager, NineStar Connect


2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Track Session
Fiber-Based Incubators and Tech Hives
For most communities that develop or partner for high-speed broadband network, economic development and job creation is the primary motivation.  Some particularly innovative communities are taking the next step and developing incubators that cultivate and support new businesses.  These communities are leveraging their connectivity to attract new entrepreneurs and high-tech companies into their community.  Our panelists each have experience working with fiber-based incubators and will talk about some of the positive outcomes and lessons learned.

Moderator:
Gene Crick
– Rural Telecommunications Congress

Panelists:
Doug Dawson – President,  CCG Consulting
Robert Wack – City Council President, Westminster, MD
Joel Smith – Accelerant BSP
Dennis Donohue – Lead, Center for Innovation & Technology, Western Growers; Former Mayor, Salinas, CA
Gabriel Garcia – Director & Senior Counsel, CPS Energy


4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Track Session
Paying for the Last Mile: Check Out This Essential Service Approach that Pays for the Last Mile
There are proven models (e.g. electrical co-ops, gas utilities) to finance broadband in higher-cost areas by approaching it as an essential service. This session will examine a new way to fund the last mile by combining Broadband Improvement Districts, cost reduction financing and local economic growth in a manner that is sustainable and low risk. And if you’re wondering if it’s a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist…. Recent SNG research reveals that rural broadband subscribers receive half the bandwidth for the same price as their urban counterparts. Furthermore, subscribers with one broadband provider are getting less than half the bandwidth that subscribers with two or more providers get in their area — again for the same price. There are still far too many unserved and underserved areas and the current business case approach is not addressing their needs.

Moderator:
Michael Curri
– Founder & President, Strategic Networks Group, Inc.

Panelists:
Bruce Patterson – Technology Director, City of Ammon, Idaho
Bryan Adams – Director of Sales & Marketing, LS Networks

Thursday, May 4

9:10 am – 10:00 am
Track Session
Ownership Models for Rural Broadband
In metropolitan areas, broadband providers are usually vertically integrated – the same company builds, owns and manages the infrastructure and also delivers services. Rural network owners have been more willing to experiment with different ownership and funding models. In this session, we’ll hear from multiple network owners that have achieved success in rural areas.   Find out what the trade-offs are among these different models, and learn how to decide which is right for your network.

Moderator:
Joel Mulder
– Vice President of Sales, ex2 Technology

Presenters:
Bruce Patterson – Technology Director, City of Ammon, Idaho
Leo Carlson – Business & Technology Manager, Norvado
Rick Smith – General Services Director, City of Cortez


10:10 am – 11:00 am
Track Session
Rural Quality of Life; Balancing Digital Opportunities and Technological Disruptions
Given affordable broadband access and appropriate devices, bridging the digital divide depends on what first you learn is possible, and then, choose to do with broadband. Without attention to appropriate support systems for growing a rural and/or urban, local culture of creativity, the digital divide will persist, even with broadband. This panel will address actionable strategies for scalable training, motivation, and ongoing support for grassroots champions, and social entrepreneurs, in rural, tribal, and urban communities.

Moderator:
Frank Odasz
– President, Lone Eagle Consulting

Presenter:
Michael Liimatta – Professor, City Vision University; Former Manager of ConnectHome at HUD


11:10 am – 12:00 pm
Track Session
BETTER BROADBAND POLICY
Revising the Telecom Act to Meet the Needs of Rural America
A chance for all to meet with serious folks who have spent years working on broadband diffusion and their ideas of how to change the laws to create more broadband access in rural America. They were here when the Internet started  and have helped grow it. What laws do we need to change?  What partnerships do we need to develop? Financing for smaller firms and community access institutions.  Cross Border Initiatives Schools, Libraries, HealthCare funding.

Moderator:
Jane Smith Patterson
– Partner, Broadband Catalysts, LLP

Presenters:
John Windhausen – Executive Director SHELB, Washington DC
Mark Johnson – Vice President, the Quilt, and former Director of USCANN
Will Aycock – Greenlight  General Manager

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.

Broadband's Impact

Julio Fuentes: Access Delayed Was Access Denied to the Poorest Americans

Big Telecom companies caused months and months of delays in the rollout of the Emergency Broadband Benefit.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Julio Fuentes, president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Remember when millions of students in dense urban areas and less-populated rural areas weren’t dependent on home broadband access so they could attend school?

Remember when we didn’t need telehealth appointments, and broadband access in urban and outlying areas was an issue that could be dealt with another day?

Remember when the capability to work remotely in underserved communities wasn’t the difference between keeping a job and losing it?

Not anymore.

Education. Health care. Employment. The COVID-19 pandemic affected them all, and taking care of a family in every respect required broadband access and technology to get through large stretches of the pandemic.

You’d think the Federal Communications Commission and its then-acting chairwoman would have pulled out all the stops to make sure that this type of service was available to as many people as possible, as soon as possible — especially when there’s a targeted federally funded program for that important purpose.

Alas, by all appearances, some Big Telecom companies threw their weight around and caused months and months of delays, denying this life-changing access to the people who needed it most — at the time they needed it most.

The program in question is the federally funded Emergency Broadband Benefit program. The EBB offered eligible households — often the poorest Americans — a discount of up to $50 per month toward broadband service, and those households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop or other computer if they contribute just $10 to the purchase. Huge value and benefits for technology that should no longer be the privilege of only those with resources.

Seems fairly straightforward, right?

It should have been. But FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel slammed on the brakes. Why? It turns out that Big Telecom giants wanted more time to get ready to grab a piece of the action — a lot more time. While the program was ready to go in February, it didn’t actually launch until several months later.

That’s months of unnecessary delay.

But it wasn’t providers who were waiting. It was Americans in underserved and rural areas, desperate for a connection to the world.

Here are some numbers for Rosenworcel to consider:

  • As recently as March, 58% of white elementary students were enrolled for full-time in-person instruction, while only 36% of Black students, 35% of Latino students, and 18% of Asian peers were able to attend school in person.
  • Greater portions of families of color and low-income families reportedly fell out of contact with their children’s schools during the pandemic. In one national survey in spring 2020, nearly 30% of principals from schools serving “large populations of students of color and students from lower-income households” said they had difficulty reaching some of their students and/or families — in contrast to the 14% of principals who said the same in wealthier, predominantly white schools.
  • In fall 2020, only 61% of households with income under $25,000 reported that the internet was “always available” for their children to use for educational purposes; this share was 86% among households with incomes above $75,000.

And all of these numbers cut across other key issues such as health care and maintaining employment.

Access delayed was access denied to the poorest, most isolated Americans during the worst pandemic in generations.

Allowing Big Telecom companies to get their ducks in a row (and soak up as many federal dollars as possible) left poor and rural Americans with no options, for months. Who knows how many children went without school instruction? Or how many illnesses went undiagnosed? Or how many jobs were terminated?

This delay was appalling, and Chairwoman Rosenworcel should have to answer for her actions to the Senate Commerce Committee as it considers her nomination for another term as commissioner. Rather than expedite important help to people who needed it most, she led the agency’s delay — for the benefit of giant providers, not the public.

Hopefully, the committee moves with more dispatch than she did in considering her actual fitness to be FCC chairwoman for another term.

Julio Fuentes is president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Texas High School Students Enter the Fight for Better Connectivity

Students in a Houston-area school district hosted a panel on connecting schools and libraries as part of a national event on bridging the digital divide.

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John Windhausen Jr., founder and executive director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition

WASHINGTON, December 1, 2021 – Generation Z students are making their mark at a Houston-area school district by adding broadband access to the list of issues they are actively working on.

The high school students in the Fort Bend Independent School District organized a panel conversation on internet access in education as part of Connected Nation’s national event titled “20 Years of Connecting the Nation,” and were able to host some high-profile guests in the world of telecommunications.

The November 17 panel included John Windhausen Jr., founder and executive director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition, Chris Martinez, division director of information technology for the Harris County Public Library, Heather Gate, vice president of digital inclusion for Connected Nation, and Meredith Watassek, director of career and technical education for Fort Bend ISD.

Nine percent of residents in Harris County, where Houston is located, reports that they do not have a connected device at home and 18 percent say they do not have access to an internet connection. These gaps in access are the focus of the panelists’ digital equity efforts.

With Windhausen and Martinez present on the panel, a key point of discussion was the importance of helping libraries to act as anchor institutions – institutions which help enable universal broadband access.

Watassek pointed out that she has been helping oversee distance learning in Fort Bend ISD for six years, starting such a program to enable teachers to teach students in several of the district’s buildings without having to drive to each one, and has seen that with time and learned experience it is possible to work through distance learning logistical issues that school districts around the nation are currently facing.

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Broadband's Impact

New York City Broadband Housing Initiative Gets First Completed Project

The initiative is part of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $157 million Internet Master Plan.

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BlocPower CEO Donnel Baird speaks at a press conference at Melrose Housing. Photo provided by BlocPower.

November 30, 2021 – BlocPower, Metro IAF, People’s Choice Communications, and pillars in the Bronx community in New York City gathered Monday at the Melrose Housing development to celebrate the first of five New York City Housing Authority community Wi-Fi projects completed by BlocPower.

Community members and other stakeholders were welcomed by Rev. Sean McGillicuddy, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church and leader at Metro IAF. “As the pandemic has shown us, internet is not just a luxury, it is a necessity,” he said. “We have internet now in Melrose Housing and we are celebrating with hundreds of Immaculate Conception Church parishioners.”

The build out to Melrose Housing and Courtland Avenue was part of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $157 million Internet Master Plan, with a goal of connecting 600,000 additional New Yorkers considered underserved. A third of those underserved people are residents in New York City Housing Authority communities.

With these two projects completed, Melrose and Courtland Housing can now provide internet to their more than 2,500 residents spread across 1,200 apartments and ten buildings.

“We are incredibly excited today to bring this much-needed, low-cost wi-fi alternative to Melrose and Courtlandt Avenue,” said BlocPower CEO Donnel Baird. “What began as the by-product of our efforts to convert New York City’s aging, urban buildings into smarter, cleaner more eco-friendly ones, installing community-owned urban wi-fi networks has now become an important part of BlocPower’s expanded mandate – to help close the digital divide in America’s underserved communities.”

P.C.C. technicians were able to install antennas on roofs and wi-fi nodes on each floor. To have a sufficient workforce to accomplish this task, BlocPower trained local New Yorkers through the company’s “Pathways: Civilian Climate Corps” program.

Going forward, P.C.C. will be responsible for maintaining, billing, and customer service. Melrose and Courtland residents will, in turn, elect a board to represent them in matters of data governance, use of proceeds, and quality of service issues.

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