While the Trump Administration may have made this week another Infrastructure Week, I have found that visiting with NTCA members, infrastructure, fiber builds and broadband deployments are all top of mind. Visiting with CEO Troy Schilling, CEO of West River Telecommunications in North Dakota while I was in Fargo, he shared that they are looking to complete their fiber builds this year and are making good progress in the most remote portions of their service territory. Jon Stouffer, CEO of Granby in Missouri has been wonderful about keeping us apprised of the progress their company is making in their fiber deployment in Granby, hitting final phases as they have reached enough regulatory certainty with the Universal Service Programs to finish some of their anticipated builds. The stories keep rolling in and there is nothing that I like to see more than how good public policy decisions translate into actual service for rural consumers.
Then there is the recent correspondence that Gary Johnson, leader for Paul Bunyan Communications in Minnesota recently sent to their Governor where he noted “Funding spent on existing aging infrastructure and old technology like copper results in no real progress in Internet speeds and capabilities and is a wasted opportunity to build for the future.” Johnson concluded in his correspondence to Governor Walz that “Let’s not just get by. Let’s think big. Let’s do what is possible, so that we enable those who follow to dream of what’s next.”
Those stories “on the ground” were the perfect segue to a meeting with Mike Romano and I had yesterday with the new acting RUS Administrator Chad Rupe. We talked about the status of the ReConnect Program and next steps, like key mapping, that will be critical. It’s great to have someone with such a rich heritage from rural Wyoming leading the program through these exciting times of opportunity.
NTCA is committed to continually finding the right resources and experts to put in front of our members as they continue to push out their networks. Next week we will be hosting a webcast with the folks from Render Networks who will be exploring with our membership how today’s technology and digital workflows can actually vastly reduce construction duration and costs – both key for rural markets while traditional network design and construction management methods often struggle to keep pace with today’s large-scale network deployments. Who doesn’t want to be more efficient? In this era of online learning, this is certainly worth checking out!