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



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
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.

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

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
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?

Drew Clark
– President, Rural Telecommunications Congress; Editor & Publisher,

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.

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

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.

Josh Seidemann
– Vice President of Policy, NTCA

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.

Gene Crick
– Rural Telecommunications Congress

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.

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

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.

Joel Mulder
– Vice President of Sales, ex2 Technology

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.

Frank Odasz
– President, Lone Eagle Consulting

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

11:10 am – 12:00 pm
Track Session
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.

Jane Smith Patterson
– Partner, Broadband Catalysts, LLP

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


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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Digital Inclusion

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel Emphasizes 100 Percent Broadband Adoption

‘It’s about making sure wireless connections are available in 100 percent of rural America,’ said the chairwoman.



Photo of Kelley Dunne, CEO of AmeriCrew, leading panel on workforce issues at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit by Drew Clark

PARK CITY, Utah, June 28, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission is making progress towards bringing “affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to 100 percent of the country,” Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit here on Tuesday.

Rosenworcel pointed to the $65 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act now being deployed across the country, with a particular focus on unconnected rural and tribal areas.

Although the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration will take the lead with these funds, the FCC’s new broadband coverage maps will be important in implementing state digital equity plans.

In her remarks, Rosenworcel also discussed how the upcoming 2.5 GigaHertz spectrum auction will involve licensing spectrum primarily to rural areas.

At the July FCC open meeting, said Rosenworcel, the agency is scheduled to establish a new program to help enhance wireless competition. It is called the Enhanced Competition Incentive Program.

The program aims to build incentives for existing carriers to build opportunities for smaller carriers and tribal nations through leasing or partitioning spectrum. Existing carriers will be rewarded with longer license terms, extensions on build-out obligations, and more flexibility in construction requirements.

“It’s about making sure wireless connections are available in 100 percent of rural America,” she said.

She also indicated her commitment to work with Congress to fund the FCC’s “rip and replace” program to reimburse many rural operators’ transitions from Chinese-manufactured telecommunications equipment. She also touted the role that open radio access networks can plan in more secure telecommunications infrastructure.

In other news at the conference, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr addressed the role of funding broadband operations in rural America, the challenges of workforce training, and ensuring that rural carriers have access to high-cost universal service support.

In a session moderated by AmeriCrew CEO Kelley Dunne, panelists from the U.S. Labor Department, the Wireless Infrastructure Association and Texas A&M Extension Education Services addressed the need to offer a vocational career path for individuals for whom a four-year degree may not be the right choice. AmeriCrew helps U.S. military veterans obtain careers in building fiber, wireless and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark contributed to this report.

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Broadband's Impact

Broadband Speeds Have Significant Impact on Economy, Research Director Says

From 2010 to 2020, a 10.9 percent growth in broadband penetration drove .04 percent increase in GDP, the study found.



Photo of Alan Davidson of the NTIA, Caroline Kitchens of Shopify, Raul Katz of Columbia University (left to right)

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2022 – Broadband and higher speeds have made significant contributions to economic growth over the last decade, according to a study discussed at a Network On conference Tuesday.

Raul Katz, director of business strategy research at Columbia University, conducted his research to determine where the United States economy would be if broadband had not evolved since 2010. He developed four models to explain the economic contribution of broadband, and all found support to suggest that broadband development has contributed to substantial economic growth.

The long-run economic growth model showed that between 2010 and 2020, a 10.9 percent growth in broadband penetration drove a .04 percent increase in gross domestic product – the measure of the value of goods and services produced in the nation. States with higher speed broadband had an economic impact of an additional 11.5 percent.

“States with higher speeds of broadband have a higher economic effect,” said Katz. “Not only is there penetration as a driver, but there’s also… return to speed. At faster speeds, the economy tends to be more efficient.”

The study found that if broadband adoption and speed had remained unchanged since 2010, the 2020 GDP would have been 6.27 percent lower, said Katz.

Caroline Kitchens, a representative for ecommerce platform Shopify, said Tuesday that there’s been great growth in the ecommerce business, which relies entirely on a broadband connection. “Worldwide, Shopify merchants create 3.5 million jobs and have an economic impact of more than $307 billion. It goes without saying that none of this is possible without broadband access.”

“We have really seen firsthand how broadband access promotes entrepreneurship,” said Kitchens, indicating that this has promoted a growing economy in over 100 countries.

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