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Registration Available for Rural Broadband Track at Broadband Communities Summit from April 27-30, 2020

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Illustration courtesy WallpaperCave

Broadband Communities and the Rural Telecommunications Congress have released the agenda for the rural broadband track at the forthcoming Broadband Communities Summit in April 2020.

For the tenth year in a row, the non-profit RTC has co-hosted the rural track at the summit, the premier national gathering for the broadband fiber and infrastructure community. The Broadband Communities Summit takes place this year in Houston, Texas, from April 27 to April 30, 2020.

Use this link to register for the summit, and use VIP Code: RTC410. This registration code entitles the user to more than 56 percent off the regular purchase price.

“The Broadband Communities Summit is the leading event for community leaders, multifamily property owners and network builders and deployers interested in the building, managing, marketing and monetizing of high-speed broadband technologies and services,” said Barbara De Garmo, CEO of Broadband Communities. “It is focused on the successful delivery of high-speed broadband networks to communities – from multifamily properties and planned developments to the city or town where you live.”

“The Rural Telecommunications Congress is pleased to build on a decade-long partnership with Broadband Communities,” said Drew Clark, President of the RTC, and the Editor and Publisher of Broadband Breakfast. “Our focus on broadband planning, broadband infrastructure, and broadband usage for rural communities dovetails extremely well with this outstanding summit.”

The kickoff event for the rural broadband track at this year’s summit will be “The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund – What Does it Mean for You?” moderated by Carol Mattey of Mattey Consulting. It takes place on Tuesday, April 28, at 2:10 p.m. CT.

The FCC, with its newly implemented Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is distributing lots of money for financing rural broadband. Our panel of experts will guide you through what the fund is and what it means for your company, co-op, or community.

Next up is “Wireless Service in Rural American, Licensed and Unlicensed.”

Wireless Internet Service Providers are among the companies most at the forefront of helping Rural American meet its broadband needs. Most of them currently make use of unlicensed radio frequencies. This panel will consider a number of licensed or quasi-licensed frequencies that will be soon be available for auction by the FCC in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band, as well as other wireless uses for delivering broadband.

On Wednesday, April 29, the rural broadband track will feature three panels: “Connecting the Middle Mile and the Last Mile in Rural America,” “Rural Success Stories,” and “Better Broadband Mapping for Rural America.”

The middle mile session addresses numerous examples of middle-mile networks and the success they have had in connecting to last-mile networks in rural America.

The rural success story panel will address the difference that broadband makes when deployed in rural America, exploring numerous “success stories,” and examining what they have been able to do with their improved broadband.

Broadband mapping continues to be very much in the news. Much of the recent legislative focus on the topic has been driven by concerns from constituents in rural areas who are considered “covered,” when they are in fact living in a broadband desert. This session will consider recent controversies in broadband mapping, discuss the FCC’s Digital Opportunity Data Collection Report, and examine what particular communities are doing to map out broadband.

The rural broadband track concludes on Thursday, April 30. The two sessions that day will be on “Apps for Rural America: Putting Better Broadband to Better Uses,” and on “Opportunity Zones and Foundations.”

Broadband matters not because of the “feeds and speeds,” but because of the uses to which it is put. These include telehealth, education, senior connected living and telecommuting. What do these apps mean for rural America? Do they work? Are there legislative, policy or business insurance hurdles to overcome as they are used more and more in rural areas? These are just a few of the questions, come hear the answers.

The concluding session on Opportunity Zones will address the productive collaborations currently underway between foundations, rural communities, and investors seeking to take advantage of the savings available in the tax reform bill’s Opportunity Zones. The panel will specifically explore broadband’s role in Opportunity Zones.

Don’t forget to use  VIP Code: RTC410 when you register for the summit.

For more about the summit, visit the home page, and learn more about the Summit Chairmen.

Broadband Breakfast is a decade-old news organization based in Washington that is building a community of interest around broadband policy and internet technology, with a particular focus on better broadband infrastructure, the politics of privacy and the regulation of social media. Learn more about Broadband Breakfast.

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 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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