Connect with us


Exciting Rural Telecommunications Congress Sessions at Broadband Communities Summit



Don’t missing the exciting program of the Rural Telecommunications Congress in Austin, Texas, from April 9, 2019-April 11, 2019. The program is listed below.

To sign up at the Rural Telecommunications Congress rate by visiting the RTC web site, or by visiting the Broadband Communities web site. (Make sure to select “CODE HOLDERS” radio button and use VIP Code RTC410)

8:00 am – 8:45 am

General Session

The Big Picture


Jim Baller – President, Baller Stokes & Lide, PC
Bryan Rader – President, UpStream Network
Drew Clark – Chairman and Publisher,, President, Rural Telecommunications Congress

3:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Track Session

Rural Funding 1: State of Play From the USDA, the NTIA and CoBank

Yes, there’s an urban-rural broadband divide. But the good news is there’s a lot of money to close it – so much that we have two panels on rural funding. First comes the state of play from the USDA (et al). There’s millions in the Farm Bill, millions more in the ReConnect program. And that’s not the end of federal funds.

Hilda Legg –  State Director of Kentucky, Rural Development, USDA

Brad Finstad 
– State Director of Minnesota, USDA
Karen Hanson – Manager, Partnerships, Interagency Affairs, NTIA, U.S. Department of Commerce
Graham Kaiser – Vice President, Electric Distribution, CoBank

4:10 pm -5:00 pm

Track Session

Rural Funding 2: Going After Private Funds… and Help Spur an Innovation Renaissance

Yes, there are bullish proponents of rural investment who tout the benefits of getting ahead of the pack to get their deployments funded. Come find out why… and what they’re anxious to invest in.

Tim Marema – Editor, The Daily Yonder

Nathan Ohle
 – Executive Director, RCAP, Inc.
Lindsey Brannon – Head of Finance, Neighborly
Deborah Simpier – Co-Founder, Althea


Wednesday, April 10

8:00 am – 8:50 am

Track Session

Wired and Wireless: What Technologies Best Meet the Needs of Rural America?

At times, the debate between fiber advocates and wireless providers can take on the trappings of a religious war. What technologies do rural communities need to thrive in the broadband era? This panel’s experts and observers will consider on-the-ground realities as they search for the answers.

Drew Clark
 – Chairman and Publisher,; President, Rural Telecommunications Congress

Dr. Christopher Ali, PhD – Assistant Professor-Department of Media Studies, University of Virginia
Keith Montgomery – Chief Financial Officer, Declaration Networks
Keith Gabbard – CEO, PRTC
Jameson Zimmer – Head of Product and Senior Analyst,


9:00 am – 9:50 am

Track Session

Rural Broadband as a Driver for State Broadband Initiatives

The State Broadband Initiatives are back! While many of these were created in the run-up to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, states are now finding that it makes sense to continue to fund these offices as a key driver of rural broadband initiatives. This panel will consider an array of approaches by states in their broadband initiatives, and the new role they are playing under the American Broadband Initiative.

Drew Clark
 – Chairman and Publisher,; President, Rural Telecommunications Congress

John Flanagan – Policy Advisor, Economic Development, Office of the Governor, State of Washington
Chris Pedersen – Vice President, Development and Planning, Connected Nation
Jeffrey Sural – Director, Broadband Infrastructure Office, North Carolina Department of Information Technology
Crystal Ivey – Broadband Director, Community and Rural Development, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

10:00 am – 10:50 am

Track Session

In Sickness and In Health… Benefits of Marrying Telehealth and Community Broadband

A telehealth strategy can make funding your deployment easier, give your network a marketing edge and drive subscribers to your broadband network. This session aims to engage municipalities, co-ops and local ISPs with proven how-tos of designing that effective strategy, building telehealth partnerships and uncovering ways to use telehealth to increase broadband subscribers. Attendees will also go home from the “wedding celebration” understanding the different broadband design considerations for urban and rural communities.

Craig Settles – President, CJ Speaks

James Cowan – CEO and Founder, Docity
Kami Griffiths – Co-Founder and Executive Director, Community Tech Network
Margaret (Peg) Molloy – CEO, VistaLifeSciences, Inc.

12:45 pm – 2:00 pm

Cornerstone Awards Luncheon

Sponsored by Verizon

Keynote Address by:
Jannine Miller – Senior Advisor for Rural Infrastructure, USDA


Thursday, April 11

8:00 am – 9:00 am

Track Session

Turning Your Connection into Economic Opportunity

Many utilities and electric cooperatives are finding that, through local partnerships with existing Internet Service Providers, they can keep broadband deployment local while also bringing in new areas of expertise to rural areas. This session will explore how rural communities can leverage partnerships to keep broadband local and will look at what keeping broadband revenues local could mean for local economies.

Eric Ogle – Project Manager, Magellan Advisors

William Bradford – CEO, United Communications
Brad Gibson – Chief Cooperatives Business Officer, Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation
Jonathan West – Chairman, Foursight Communications
Greg Williams – Executive Vice President and General Manager, Appalachian Electric Cooperative

9:10 am – 10:00 am

Track Session

Rural, Yes Rural, Broadband Success Stories

There is a digital divide that’s leaving parts of rural America behind. But the good news is there are small communities with proven broadband track records — fiber, wireless and cable – and you’ll meet them here. These panelists, from the East Coast to the West, have plenty to say about the obstacles and how they overcame them on the way to successful operations.

Jane Smith Patterson – Partner, Broadband Catalysts

Gene Scott
 – General Manager, Outside Plant, Greenlight Community Broadband, Wilson NC
Mark DeFalco – Manager, Appalachian Regional Commission
Ted Osborn – Senior Vice President of Strategy and Regulatory Affairs, Nextlink, Hudson, Texas

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

General Session

Jim Baller
 – President, Baller Stokes & Lide, PC

Susan Crawford
 – John A. Reilly Clinical Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

The Coming Tech Revolution – And Why America Might Miss It 

That’s the title of fiber broadband champion and Harvard Law School professor Susan Crawford’s new book – and what you’ll hear her address at Thursday’s working lunch. The great promise of cheap, ultra-fast fiber-optic connectivity is limitless communications capacity that will radically transform everything from business, education and medical care to urban and rural problem-solving. Why might America miss out? Crawford notes that 84 percent of homes here are still connected to the internet through far more limited copper wire. China, on the other hand, is installing some 20,000 FTTH connections daily. Crawford has lots to say about the whys of America’s sluggish and haphazard efforts to switch to fiber and about the ways we can fix it. She’ll share them and follow up with a Q&A and book signing.

Book signing immediately following.

Sponsored by CTC

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.

Expert Opinion

Angie Kronenberg: The FCC Must Act Now to Save the USF

While the USF remains vital in an ever-increasing connected world, it is in serious jeopardy of surviving.



The author of this Expert Opinion is INCOMPAS President Angie Kronenberg.

Last week, the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Media and Broadband held a hearing titled “The State of Universal Service.” The Universal Service Fund is our nation’s critical connectivity program that helps ensure that voice and broadband services are available and affordable throughout the country.

Since its creation by Congress in the 1996 Telecom Act, the USF has become a program that millions of families, community anchor institutions and small businesses rely on to get connected. It has been especially valuable for families and businesses that rely on it for work, school and telehealth at home.

The USF spends about $8.5 billion annually to help fund affordable connectivity in rural areas, low-income households, schools, libraries and rural hospitals. Today, the Federal Communications Commission is working to make high-speed broadband as ubiquitous as telephone service, and broadband is the essential communications technology the USF now supports.

While the USF remains vital in an ever-increasing connected world, it is in serious jeopardy of surviving. To fund the programs, telecom providers are required to pay a certain percentage of their interstate and international telecom revenues, known as the “contribution factor.” Typically, telecom providers collect these USF fees from their customers on their monthly bills.

However, the telecom revenues that fund the USF have declined over 60 percent in the last two decades. As a result, the contribution factor has skyrocketed from about 7 percent in 2001 to a historic high of about 30 percent today, as a higher portion of telecom revenues is needed to sustain the fund. That means certain consumers and businesses are now paying an additional 30 percent on top of their phone bills in order to fund the USF.

Telecom revenues continue to decline so rapidly because customers today rely more on broadband services and less on landline and mobile phone services, but broadband revenues do not pay into the USF. While the FCC has modernized each USF program to help support broadband service, it has not modernized its funding mechanism to require broadband services to pay into the Fund even though historically the agency has required supported services to be included in the contribution system.

Without intervention, the contribution factor is predicted to rise to 40 percent by 2025. This is unsustainable and puts the stability of the entire USF at risk. In fact, the contribution factor has become so high that it has led some groups to challenge the USF in federal court as unconstitutional, which also threatens the sustainability of the USF.

Reforming the USF funding mechanism is urgently needed and long overdue

Over 340 diverse stakeholders have come together as the USForward Coalition calling on the FCC to move forward with USF reform by expanding the contribution base to include broadband revenues. This solution is based on the recommendation in the USForward Report (that INCOMPAS helped commission), which was written by USF expert and former FCC official Carol Mattey.

The USForward Report explains that the most logical way to reform the contribution system and sustain the USF is to include broadband revenues in its funding assessment. Under this approach, the contribution factor is estimated to fall to less than 4 percent. It also means that the services that get USF support are paying into it, rather than solely relying on telecom customers, including those that have not made the switch to broadband, such as older Americans.

In fact, some members of Congress understand the urgency of reform and also want the FCC to act. The Reforming Broadband Connectivity Act, for example, is a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would require the FCC to reform the contribution system within one year.

Some question whether large tech companies should be assessed to contribute to the USF, and the short answer is “No.” Tech companies invest $120 billion each year in global internet infrastructure, and unlike broadband providers, these companies do not request or receive USF funding for these investments.

The FCC also lacks the authority to regulate tech companies and doing so would require Congress to act. This would further delay reform and expand the FCC’s regulatory authority over all online content and services — an overreach that many question as too broad since nearly every business today has an online presence and uses the internet to conduct business. Moreover, proposals to target certain tech companies risk skewing the online marketplace and competitive markets.

Some also question whether we still need the USF at all, and the short answer is “Yes.” While Congress allocated tens of billions for broadband, most of this investment is targeted for deployment, yet a significant portion of the USF programs focus on affordability. We not only have to make sure we build out our broadband networks, but also that communities can then afford to subscribe to these services.

The FCC should not wait to reform the USF. The USForward Report sets out a real plan that the FCC can and should implement. Congress should encourage the FCC to act now and save the nation’s critical connectivity program.

Angie Kronenberg is the president of INCOMPAS, where she manages the policy team and its work before federal, state and local governments, as well as leading the association’s efforts on membership and business development. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

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

Continue Reading


Farm Bill Should Include Higher Broadband Speed Requirements

Congress should increase speed requirements for the USDA’s broadband programs to encourage fiber builds, committee hears.



Photo of Jesse Shekleton of Jo-Carroll Energy

WASHINGTON, May 17, 2023 – Witnesses at a Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry hearing urged Congress to increase broadband deployment speed requirements in the Farm Bill of 2023 Wednesday.  

Every five years, Congress passes legislation that covers agricultural and food programs in the Farm Bill, which includes rural broadband programs. The foremost of which is the US Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program which offers grants for broadband infrastructure deployment that connects rural addresses. 

Congress can help push rural networks forward by encouraging fiber builds, which can be accomplished by keeping minimum speeds at 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload, said Roger Nishi, vice president of industry relations at Waitsfield and Champlain valley Telecom.   

High-speed internet is essential for precision agriculture techniques that connect farm equipment and buildings to reduce input costs and improve yields, added Jesse Shekleton, director of Broadband Operations at Jo-Carroll Energy.  

“Demands for bandwidth on farms will continue to grow,” he said, arguing that fiber should be prioritized in rural builds due to its future-proof capacity.  

The agriculture industry is trending toward a need for multi-gig service by 2030, he said. If we only build out the needs of today, we are not considering the needs of the future, he noted. 

Justin Forde, vice president of government relations at ISP Midco, disagreed, claiming that the USDA needs to be technology-neutral to ensure that all locations are serviced by the most reasonable technology with regards to terrain and weather complications that could bar fiber deployment.  

“It is simply irresponsible to try to drive fiber to all these rural locations,” claimed Forde. Customers do not need 100 Mbps symmetrical speed and it is unreasonable to deploy it, he continued.  

CEO of Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative, James Johnson, said in response that 20 percent of rural consumers use 1 gigabit speeds and that speed demands will only continue to grow. 

Inter-Agency Coordination 

Witnesses also urged Congress to encourage federal agency cooperation to avoid overbuilds and duplicative grant funding. 

The release of the updated memorandum of understanding in August of 2022, which outlined the coordination between the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Federal Communications Commission, is a good start, said Nishi.  

However, these agencies need continual oversight from Congress to ensure they are working together to connect all Americans to broadband, he said.  

In December, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., introduced a bill that would merge the ReConnect program with the agency’s other broadband funding initiatives.  

The coalition, including Sens. Ben Ray Lujan D-N.M., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Deb Fischer, R-Neb., argued the Rural Internet Improvement Act would facilitate the efficient dispatch of funding to rural areas. The bill would also limit the disbursal of ReConnect funds to areas in which at least 90 percent of households lack broadband service. 

The bill has been introduced to the Senate Committee and is awaiting a vote. 

Hearings regarding the 2023 Farm Bill will continue through the first months of the year. The current legislation is set to expire on September 30. 

Continue Reading

Universal Service

Should Big Tech or Broadband Be Tapped for USF Contributions?

Including all broadband internet revenue will alter the internet in uncertain ways, claims expert.



Photo of Angie Kronenberg of INCOMPAS

WASHINGTON, May 11, 2023 – Senate witnesses disagreed on whether all broadband internet revenue should be taxed as part of the Universal Service Fund contribution factor. 

“Historically, the USF has always been paid for based upon the services that is supports,” said Angie Kronenberg, president of trade association for competitive networks, INCOMPAS, urging lawmakers to include all broadband internet revenue in the contribution base for the USF.

Kronenberg was testifying in a Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Media and Broadband hearing Thursday.

The USF is a nearly $10 billion fund that relies on dwindling voice service revenues to fund several programs that support low-income broadband access in the United States.  

Adding broadband companies to the contribution base will build the fund to a more sustainable level and can be done without any change to the Federal Communication Commission’s statues, said Kronenberg. 

Professor at Boston College Law School Daniel Lyons disagreed, saying that adding broadband companies will not solve the structural problems with the USF.

“Whether you are talking about adding broadband providers or adding edge providers, once you start taxing those services, you create structural incentives that rearrange the way the internet works in ways that we can’t predict in advance,” he said. 

Instead, Lyons urged Congress to make the USF a program based on federal appropriations. Doing so would make the program subject to hard budget constraints and oversight from Congress, he said. 

Including Big Tech in the contribution base is a topic of much debate across the industry. The FCC has left it to Congress to institute legislative reforms that would allow it to make changes to the contribution base. 

The fund has been under scrutiny as the voice service revenues which is relies on are dwindling. The USF supports programs such as Lifeline, which supports affordable access to broadband internet for low-income households. 

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that INCOMPAS President Angie Kronenberg urged that big tech companies be included in the USF contribution base. In fact, she said that broadband companies should be included in the contribution base. The story has been corrected. 

Continue Reading

Signup for Broadband Breakfast News

Broadband Breakfast Research Partner