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Exciting Rural Telecommunications Congress Sessions at Broadband Communities Summit

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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


Presenters:

Jim Baller – President, Baller Stokes & Lide, PC
Bryan Rader – President, UpStream Network
Drew Clark – Chairman and Publisher, BroadbandBreakfast.com, 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.

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

Presenter:
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.

Moderator:
Tim Marema – Editor, The Daily Yonder

Presenters:
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.

Moderator:
Drew Clark
 – Chairman and Publisher, BroadbandBreakfast.com; President, Rural Telecommunications Congress

Presenters:
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, BroadbandNow.com

 


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.

Moderator:
Drew Clark
 – Chairman and Publisher, BroadbandBreakfast.com; President, Rural Telecommunications Congress

Presenters:
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.

Moderator:
Craig Settles – President, CJ Speaks

Presenters:
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.

Moderator:
Eric Ogle – Project Manager, Magellan Advisors

Presenters:
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.

Moderator:
Jane Smith Patterson – Partner, Broadband Catalysts

Presenters:
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

Introduction:
Jim Baller
 – President, Baller Stokes & Lide, PC

 Keynoter:
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 is a nationally respected U.S. telecommunications attorney. An early advocate of better broadband, better lives, he founded the Broadband Census crowdsourcing campaign for better broadband data in 2008. That effort became the Broadband Breakfast media community. As Editor and Publisher, Clark presides over news coverage focused on digital infrastructure investment, broadband’s impact, and Big Tech. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Clark served as head of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, a state broadband initiative. Now, in light of the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, attorney Clark helps fiber-based and wireless clients secure funding, identify markets, broker infrastructure and operate in the public right of way. He also helps fixed wireless providers obtain spectrum licenses from the Federal Communications Commission. 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.

Rural

Local Governments Provide Valuable Information for Rural Infrastructure Builds

Rural communities vary in broadband needs, making community engagement essential for breaching the digital divide.

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Photo of Scott Woods, Josh Seidemann, Jerry Kuthy and Bob Knight (left to right) by Teralyn Whippe

WASHINGTON, May 11, 2022 – A critical first step to delivering on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for rural communities at a local level is community engagement and understanding, panelists said at a Tuesday event of the Local Initiative Support Corporation.

As a local leader in a rural community “the first thing to do is a community survey,” said Josh Seidemann, vice president of policy at NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association.

Seidemann and other panelists provided advice on what local communities need to do to be successful in applications under the IIJA. The process is expected to kick off upon release of rules from the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The agency must release rules under the IIJA by May 16.

A community survey will help “determine and evaluate where your community needs broadband the most,” said Seidemann. Such a survey is “going to inform and illuminate the type of network that will best meet your needs.”

Community needs can vary due to topography and existing infrastructure available for use. “Make sure your network meets your community needs,” added Bob Knight, CEO of public relations agency Harrison Edwards and a local government official in Connecticut. He is co-chair of Fiber Broadband Association’s public officials group. “The best projects have an element of community engagement.”

Jerry Kuthy, Program Officer at Cameron Foundation, urged local leaders to create a mapping system of their individual geographical broadband needs.

The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development launched an interactive broadband coverage map in April of 2022. Kuthy said the map will help local leaders in Virginia roll out funding for rural broadband infrastructure.

Mapping areas of focus for broadband projects has long been the focus for state and regional leaders, in part because so many people have expressed disappointment at previous FCC broadband mapping efforts.

LISC is an intermediary non-profit that connects public and private resources with underinvested places. The role of Community Development Financial Institutions was also discussed at the event.

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Rural

Community Development Financial Institutions Funds Prepare for Broadband Infrastructure Funding

CDFI funds are responsible for rural Wyoming broadband and may offer a solution to rural areas across the nation.

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Photo of Brian Vo

WASHINGTON, May 11, 2022 – A Treasury Department program that is bringing capital to disadvantaged communities is helping drive key money into broadband infrastructure builds in rural America, some of those recipient institutions said at an event Tuesday.

The department provides grants to and certifies institutions such as banks, credit unions, loan funds, microloan funds, or venture capital providers as Community Development Financial Institutions that provide financial services in low-income communities and to people who don’t have access to financing, according to the government website.

The program is also helping build much-needed broadband connectivity, as seen in rural Wyoming, where the Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corporation has already utilized CDFI funds to finance a project to run fiber optics networks to rural Wyoming.

“We believe that there’s capital available for rural broadband,” Gary Franke, managing director of the communications group at CoBank, said at the Local Initiative Support Corporation event on Tuesday.

LISC is an intermediary non-profit that connects public and private resources with underinvested places. CoBank, however, is not a CDFI.

Such deals “typically will involve partnerships with state, local, or federal programs in addition to private equity,” he said.

Suzanne Anarde, CEO at Rural Community Assistance Corporation, a CDFI, said Tuesday that CDFIs must “find out what our individual niche is and how we can build capacity that makes us viable.”

Brian Vo, chief investment officer at Connect Humanity said that his organization could work with CDFIs in the future to fund their holistic approach to digital equity.

Photo of Brian Vo (right) by Teralyn Whipple

LISC alleges that the large national financial institutions are not interested in making investments to improve rural broadband expansion across the country. The organization states on its web site that “rural broadband is lacking in many areas because the large national providers are not interested in making the investment.”

“We see a lot of opportunity out there. With the right capital and the right funding programs, there’s a lot more to come,” Franke said.

There are currently more than 1,200 CDFI funds operating across the nation, many of which are now focusing on crossing the digital divide by providing funds for rural broadband infrastructure.

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Universal Service

Universal Service Fund in Need of Reform, Said Panelist at Broadband Community Summit Event

The Universal Service Fund’s base is shrinking.

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Photo of Carol Mattey speaking.

HOUSTON, May 3, 2022 – As funding for the Universal Service Fund continues to fall year over year, the Federal Communications Commission is evaluating options to reform it.

During Broadband Communities Summit 2022, Principal Consultant for Mattey Consulting LLC, Carol Mattey anticipated what kind of changes to the Universal Service Fund that stakeholders could expect in the coming years.

The Universal Service Fund is responsible for funding several high-profile financial benefits including the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, the Connect America Fund, E-Rate, the Lifeline Program, and the Rural Healthcare Program.

The USF is funded through compulsory service provider contributions. Though those contributions have historically been based on providers’ interstate and international telecommunications service revenues, critics of the program argue that providers are increasingly able to dodge these contributions by reclassifying their sources of revenue.

A common misconception for dwindling contributions is cord cutting, Mattey said. As more people drop landlines, there is simply less voice revenue – but that is only part of the issue.

Mattey said that while information revenues have increased through consumer use of the internet, voice revenues have fallen. This disparity has caused the telecommunication contribution to skyrocket and could be nearly 30 percent in 2022.

Mattey explained that most companies simply bill their consumers to offset that amount, and as a result, the contribution has been disproportionately burdened by the elderly who are more likely to use landlines.

When addressing potential reforms, Mattey pointed to three most likely possibilities being considered: broadband internet access revenue, a flat fee per voice and broadband connection, and a flat fee per phone number.

“Any reform needs to be simple and must be able to be audited,” she said. “The current system is not equitable.”

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