We are off and running here at RTIME, NTCA’s annual gathering of thousands of rural broadband providers from across the country and the energy level is wonderfully high. Given that we are spread over at least three hotels and a convention center in downtown Phoenix, I worried in advance that folks would have sore feet by day 3 but that was needless concern as NTCA members continue to make their way to various sessions to take advantage of the wonderful opportunity to network, hear from their peers, gather technology nuggets and meet on the EXPO floor with over a hundred exhibitors that all are sharing innovative ideas, products and services in this market.
NTCA Chairman Allen Hoopes, CEO of Silver Star in Freedom, Wyoming kicked us off in fine fashion and tee’d up folks hearing from University of Michigan Business school prof and all-around innovation guru, Jeff DeGraff. Loved Jeff’s words of knowledge when it came to thinking beyond yourself, thinking out of the box, riding inside the Trojan Horse and what the democratization of innovation really means. Jeff set the perfect tone for the theme of innovation for the week. Anne Hazlett, long time friend of rural America and currently serving as the Senior Rural Advisor to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy shared some sobering thoughts and statistics that the national opioid addiction epidemic has had one rural communities but gave great hope with the recent launch of community focused resources and guide to better direct support to communities that need it. She also powerfully shared the key role that broadband plays in not only battling addiction but aiding recovery efforts and supporting things like job creation, growth and housing support in rural communities that help set the path for recovery as well. Not always a comfortable topic but certainly a very important one. After I thanked Anne, her response was “What an amazing opportunity that was to spread the word. I really believe this will be solved community by community and in rural, your members are an absolute key piece of that puzzle.”
This morning we had Brent Comstock with B-Com share thoughts on growing entrepreneurs in rural communities and some of my colleagues in the association world – Lisa Youngers, CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association and Claude Aiken, CEO of WISPA share areas where our associations find ways to collaborate in a world focused on spectrum, fiber, 5G and infrastructure and where we respectfully agree to disagree. Committee meetings, board meetings, seminars, roundtables and key events for the Foundation for Rural Service and NTCA’s Rural Broadband PAC have also been in full swing. Key discussions in the hallway and on the Expo floor have been collaborative and instructional as well.
But I will not lie…the feet are starting to get a little tired and my desire for hotel cookies – available everywhere it seems – is starting to wane but looking forward to one last day of celebrating the rural broadband industry and all they are doing to bring broadband to the most challenging parts of our nation.