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A compilation of posts from NRTC’s blog, Rural Connect.


Memories of a Satellite Launch…That I Didn’t See
By Chris Martin, NRTC VP, Industry & Member Relations

July marked the 10th anniversary of the launch of the Anik F-2 satellite, which helped WildBlue high speed Internet service get off the ground … literally!

I was fortunate enough to travel to French Guyana with other NRTC employees and members of our board to watch the launch. The picture is of a much younger (and thinner) me with Ed Short, CEO and General Manager of Covington Electric Cooperative in Alabama, who was our board chairman at the time.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the launch. It was delayed several times – twice by weather and once because of a defective part. We had to wait several days for a new part to be shipped over from France because of Bastille Day – apparently, no work gets done in France on Bastille Day and at least a day on either side!

More importantly, I remember the excitement of launching WildBlue with our members – the 250 electric cooperatives and telephone companies who added the first 21,000 WildBlue subscribers in mid-2005.

Of course, many NRTC members now offer Exede, the next-generation satellite broadband product from ViaSat, which acquired WildBlue in 2009. Exede boasts download speeds of 12 Mbps and has been ranked #1 by the FCC for two years in a row in terms of delivering the speeds it promises.

To read the rest of this post, go to NRTC’s Rural Connect.

Clevest Demonstrates How AMI Data Creates Smart Grid Visualization

With the installation of AMI systems at rural electric cooperatives, utilities now have a huge amount of data to analyze. But without the correct tools, cooperatives are unable to act quickly and make informed decisions.

“What is the point of accumulating all of this data if there’s no way to easily understand it? … A multitude of data points that you don’t take action on is like being in the dark,” said Clevest’s Peter Millar, vice president, Product Marketing, during a special webcast for NRTC members. Clevest, NRTC’s vehicle location partner, used the webcast to describe a new product it is introducing this summer, Smart Grid Visualization.

“We’re particularly excited that Clevest stepped up and met this need,” said Ed Drew, NRTC’s vice president, utility solutions, who participated in the webcast. “As we serve our members with various technologies, we are happy that [Clevest] is AMI agnostic and supportive to rolling out to every AMI type … We see the ease of integration with the MultiSpeak standards and we’re highly confident that Clevest can turn an integration on any AMI technology in a very short time.”

Smart Grid Visualization takes long lists of AMI numbers from a spread sheet and puts them in context by overlaying GIS, satellite and other forms of data. The result is that real-time AMI updates presented on a map show the cooperative exactly where outages are occurring or could soon occur, allowing for faster and more efficient decision making.

During the Q&A session, a webcast participant asked how the Clevest product compares to others that are also attempting to maximize the value of AMI data. “We’re really focused on the folks out there in the field. We’re trying to solve specific problems in terms of data and information and making that actionable,” said Robin Cairns, Clevest’s product manager for smart grid systems. Although there is some overlap, other systems tend to focus more on business intelligence and analytics, he said.

Also see:
Clevest Releases Version 5.1 of Mobile Workforce Management Solution
Clevest Introduces Damage Assessment Tool

 

Tuesday’s a Good Day for AMI Technology Evaluations

Owen Electric Cooperative in Owenton, KY, would like to replace its existing AMI system with a system that is well suited to perform demand response, distribution automation, conservation voltage reduction and home automation functions. So a day at the Sensus Interactivity Lab in Morrisville, NC, to review the technologies with the experts was the most productive thing to do.

NRTC’s Dick Martin, Director, Electric Sales, and RBM Mark Davis accompanied members of Owen Electric’s technical team to the Sensus Labs on a recent Tuesday morning. Sensus tech services staffer Mark Miller led the discussion for Owen Electric’s (l-r) Jim Bridges, Tim Cammick and Kenny Courts.

NRTC and Sensus are always eager to show NRTC members the many advantages that come with AMI data gathered over licensed 900 MHz wireless links. Contact your NRTC RBM to learn more.

Nex-Tech Keeps Local Business Informed Through Tech Edge Conference

Summertime in many communities is when the business pace slows a little. It’s the time when businesses in rural communities often organize informal and fun events for their customers. In June, NRTC member Nex-Tech in Hays, KS, took that idea to the campus of Fort Hays State University for its first annual Tech Edge Conference.

“The Tech Edge Conference was our way to reach out to rural western Kansas and share with the businesses how today’s technology can make them more successful and more profitable. This event was a fantastic partnership between Nex-Tech and the technology companies that work with us to serve our customers,” said Nex-Tech General Manager and CEO Jimmy Todd.

Several national vendors, including Alcatel-Lucent, Lenovo and Toshiba, came to provide first-hand demonstrations of online and telecommunications technologies local businesses potentially could use in their offices. About 180 attendees came to see the demos and participate in breakout sessions covering technology trends.

To read the rest of this post, go to NRTC’s Rural Connect.

Supreme Court Says to Aereo: You’re a Cable Company

After much fanfare and public debate, the Supreme Court on June 25 ruled that Aereo runs afoul of copyright laws when it streams broadcasters’ over-the-air signals. The court concluded that despite the company’s unique technical setup, Aereo is effectively a cable company.

In the 6-3 decision authored by Justice Stephen Breyer, the court ruled that Aereo does “publicly perform” when it retransmits broadcasters’ signals. These public performances are regulated under the Copyright Act of 1976. That means that Aereo has to play by the same rules as any other cable company.

Aereo argued that because its service uses dedicated, individual antennas for each customer, that it was simply “a copy shop that provides its patrons with a library card.” Aereo argued that it was just an equipment company and it wasn’t required to pay broadcasters any licensing fees for their content. The court disagreed.

To read the rest of this post, go to NRTC’s Rural Connect.

Commission to Award Support for Rural Broadband Trials Through Auction

In a debate that was significantly less contentious than its E-Rate vote on the same day (see item below), the FCC also adopted a plan for distributing $100 million to fund technology trials in rural areas. The trials will test the feasibility of expanding broadband service, now defined as 10 Mbps or faster downstream, to remote areas using various technologies.

“Hundreds of our member companies have already expressed initial interest in participating in these rural broadband experiments, consistent with their decades-long commitment to solving the communications needs of rural communities,” said NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield in a written statement after the vote. “We are interested in seeing the precise rules that will govern these experiments, and we are hopeful that they will help further the mission of universal service consistent with applicable law.”

The order was not totally without controversy. Commissioner Michael O’Rielly “concurred” with the order while mentioning potential problems with it. Some critics have worried that the broadband experiments program could lead to delays in establishing a dedicated portion of the CAF for rural rate-of-return telcos. O’Rielly said he remained “skeptical” in spite of assurances in the order that it would not create a delay.

To read the rest of this post, go to NRTC’s Rural Connect.

Also see:
Bids on Rural Broadband Experiment Funds Due by Oct. 14
FCC Considering Up to $100 Million for IP Transition Experiments

FCC Deeply Divided as E-Rate Expansion Passes on Partisan Vote

Depending on whom you ask, the FCC on July 11 either adopted an order modernizing the universal service Schools and Libraries Fund (the E-Rate) to supply needed new Wi-Fi capabilities or the Commission missed an opportunity to pass “real E-Rate reform.” Whichever turns out to be the truth, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s expansion proposal passed by a 3-2 party-line vote.

According to an FCC press release, the order adds $2 billion a year to the current $2.4 billion annual budget for the next two years. The Commission will use those funds together with unused reserves from past years to dedicate $5 billion over five years for Wi-Fi in schools and libraries.

In the weeks leading up to the vote, there had been some criticism from several sources, including Democrats in Congress, that the proposed FCC plan could shortchange funding for broadband access. The latest draft of the order ensures that funding for access in unserved areas is first priority.

“Because of what we do today, 10 million kids will be connected next year who otherwise wouldn’t. That’s a good day’s work,” Wheeler said.

To read the rest of this post, go to NRTC’s Rural Connect; also see “E-Rate Expansion Focusing on Wi-Fi for Rural Schools.


 

If you have any comments or questions about NRTConnects, contact your NRTC regional business manager or write us at nrtconnects@nrtc.coop.


© 2014 NRTC
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Herndon, VA 20171
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Our Mission

To lead and support our members by delivering telecommunications solutions to strengthen member businesses, promote economic development and improve the quality of life in rural America.

In This Issue

Memories of a Satellite Launch…That I Didn’t See

Clevest Demonstrates How AMI Data Creates Smart Grid Visualization

Tuesday’s a Good Day for AMI Technology Evaluations

Nex-Tech Keeps Local Business Informed Through Tech Edge Conference

Supreme Court Says to Aereo: You’re a Cable Company

Commission to Award Support for Rural Broadband Trials Through Auction

FCC Deeply Divided as E-Rate Expansion Passes on Partisan Vote

NRTC’s Kurt Schaubach Named to Government Spectrum Planning Group

Ed Drew Comments on “The Power of Data Analytics”

Alcatel-Lucent Sets Record Speed for Data Over Traditional Copper

Home Electronics Prepared to Run on a Thread

Where You Can See NRTC

In Brief

NRTC’s Kurt Schaubach Named to Government Spectrum Planning Group

Kurt Schaubach, NRTC VP and chief technology officer, was one of several technology experts named to the U.S. Commerce Department’s the Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee (CSMAC). The 28-member panel of telecom industry figures advises the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) on electromagnetic spectrum policy issues. Committee members serve two-year terms.

NTIA manages the use of federally controlled spectrum and is a policy advisor to the president on telecommunications issues. Over the past year, CSMAC has submitted a number of proposals involving commercial spectrum bands to the FCC. According to an NTIA press release, the CSMAC’s future projects include improving spectrum sharing and developing techniques to better quantify federal agencies’ use of spectrum.

Ed Drew Comments on “The Power of Data Analytics”

Ed Drew, NRTC VP, utilities solutions, got some guest commentary space on the Intelligent Utility on July 13 with an essay titled, The Power of Data Analytics.

“Data analytics solutions are especially beneficial for rural utilities with limited IT and customer service resources. Many rural utilities struggle to find the time and manpower required to sort through this data on their own,” Drew wrote. “Through data analytics, these utilities have more knowledge and insights into their customer base, helping to facilitate regular touch points with their customers and streamlining customer service when questions about usage arise.”

Drew notes that NRTC electric cooperative members have installed about 600,000 smart meters in recent years. Following NRTC’s recent distribution agreement renewal with Sensus, he estimates that NRTC members will install more than a million more.

“It is an exciting time for utilities. The utility industry is undergoing an evolution as it begins to realize the true value of data analytics and capitalize on these technologies,” Drew said.

Alcatel-Lucent Sets Record Speed for Data Over Traditional Copper

For rural telcos that want to keep up with the speeds delivered by fiber to the home (FTTH) providers but at the same would like to get more out of their copper plant before committing to fiber investment all the way to the home, the news out of Paris is encouraging. Alcatel-Lucent is claiming that it has set a new record of 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) over copper lines.

Bell Labs, Alcatel-Lucent’s research division, says it achieved the record using a prototype technology called XG-FAST, based on a proposed standard now under review by the International Telecommunications Union. The company says that the technology could be commercially available next year. In real world applications, it estimates that XG-FAST could deliver speeds up to 500 Mbps over 1,000 meters (0.62 miles) or 1 Gbps symmetrical over 70 meters (230 feet) over a single copper pair. Those distances could match well with fiber-to-the-node networks some telcos have deployed over the years.

To read the rest of this post, go to NRTC’s Rural Connect.

Home Electronics Prepared to Run on a Thread

A group of electronics manufacturers say that that they have developed “Thread,” a wireless networking standard for controlling various devices in the home. The group claims that more than 250 devices now available can communicate with Thread on an unlicensed mesh network. The most prominent companies listed in the Thread Group include smart phone manufacturer Samsung and Nest Labs, the electronic thermostat manufacturer that Google acquired for $3.2 billion earlier this year. The group also includes a number of semiconductor companies and lock manufacturer Yale Security. They say that an early version of Thread already is running on Nest Labs devices. Devices designed with the established IEEE 802.15.4 standard can run Thread with a software update.

To read the rest of this post, go to NRTC’s Rural Connect.

Where You Can See NRTC

• Aug. 1: Florida Electric Cooperative Association Meeting, Tallahassee, FL
NRTC RBM Ronald Billodeaux will attend

• Aug. 3-6: Texas Electric Cooperatives 74th Annual Meeting, Galveston, TX
NRTC RBM Jimmy Chandler will attend

• Aug. 5: NRTC Exede Member Regional Meeting, Overland Park, KS
NRTC Staff will attend

• Aug.6: NRTC TelcoVideo Member Regional Meeting, Overland Park, KS
NRTC Staff will attend

• Aug. 6-8: Florida Electric Cooperatives Association Summer Leadership Conference, Clearwater Beach, FL
NRTC Director of Electric Sales Dick Martin will attend

• Aug. 10-12: NTCA Central/Northeast Regional Conference, Indianapolis, IN
NRTC Staff will attend

• Aug.12: NRTC TelcoVideo Member Regional Meeting, Charlotte, NC
NRTC Staff will attend

• Aug. 13-15: North Carolina TEC Meeting, Myrtle Beach, SC
NRTC Director of Electric Sales Dick Martin and RBM Jay Smith will attend

• Sept. 3-5: NRECA Regions 1 & 4 Meeting, Indianapolis, IN
NRTC Director of Electric Sales Dick Martin will attend

• Sept. 9-10: Missouri Managers Meeting, Branson, MO
NRTC RBM Ronald Billodeaux will attend

• Sept. 9-11: NRECA Regions 5 & 6 Meeting, Minneapolis, MN
NRTC Staff will attend

• Sept. 21-24: NTCA Fall Conference, San Francisco, CA
NRTC Staff will attend


See the NRTC Events page for more upcoming meetings.