I’ve always been a little envious of the annual gathering that has been held between NRECA (the electric coops), CFC/RTFC, NRTC, and NISC as they compared notes on the status of their respective industries – electric power, lending and technology solutions – and was delighted to be “invited to the party” this year.
Vern Dosch, CEO of NISC kicked off our day with a reminder on how key each of our industry segments are to the future growth and vitality of rural America and hit one of my favorite themes – how partnerships among various entities can bring even greater results when it comes to overcoming challenges of cost, low density and geography that are so well known in rural markets. Our agenda for the day covered broadband, utility industry readiness for smart homes, electric vehicles and interoperability, operational solutions and the role of analytics and data. Whew…that’s a full agenda.
It was really critical for NTCA to be involved in the discussion because frankly I don’t quite know how you discuss rural broadband without including our perspective. Our membership was on the forefront of bringing phone service to rural America nearly a hundred years ago for many and similarly brought video decades ago and broadband access long before many other parts of the country were served. Expertise and experience runs deep and no one knows the challenges better on bringing communications services to rural Americans than NTCA membership.
That being said – as we see the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) plans develop, I am extremely bullish on the possibility of interesting partners, consortiums and regional strategies possibly coming together – with NTCA members at the core – to be part of the solution for the currently un and underserved parts of our country. Just like these community based companies stepped up years ago to first bring communications services where the large corporate interests chose not to serve, they might be there to do it again and utilizing their partners to get some serious work done. Hoping to see these discussions kick off sooner rather than later and that is why these discussions at the national level are so important to have as well.