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


NRTC Partnering With NTCA to Develop the 2015 IP Possibilities Conference

For several years, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association has presented the IP Possibilities Conference & Expo, a spring gathering with fresh ideas for Internet providers with a rural telco focus. This year NTCA has invited NRTC to partner in the development of the conference’s content based on our shared commitment to bringing our members opportunities to thrive in today’s IP-enabled world.

The two organizations will present IP Possibilities on April 14-16, 2015, at the Hyatt Regency in Denver, CO. Conference registration will begin in January.

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with NTCA on IP Possibilities,” said NRTC’s CEO Tim Bryan. “We’ve long-recognized this as the premier Internet-focused event for our members, and we look forward to working with NTCA staff to maximize the meeting’s value for our members through collaboration.”

NRTC has a great history of providing its rural telco members with IP-based business opportunities, including ISP services, IP television and satellite broadband. NRTC’s NeoNova subsidiary takes its IP capabilities to great new lengths. At the same time, NRTC is at the center of its electric cooperative members’ efforts to establish smart grid technology throughout rural America. NRTC has always stood ready to support telco-electric partnerships.

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

Best Ideas for Establishing a Community Solar Project

NRTC recently hosted two webcasts to provide detailed information about how to start a Community Solar project. NRTC is working with tenKsolar of Minneapolis to deliver solar solutions for rural electric utilities in which the cooperative builds a solar array and distributes the energy to local customers.

Bill Simons, tenKsolar’s vice president, Business Development, led the discussion covering the various business plans for providing solar energy to rural subscribers as well as descriptions of the equipment involved and various financing ideas. The well-attended webcasts drew several good questions from the participants. Here is a sampling of some of those questions and Simons’ responses.

How quickly can you build a solar project? What is the lead time on equipment delivery?
Bill Simons: You can get the [solar] array in place within a quarter. If someone gives me a location, we can do a layout and a quote within a week. We can sit down and talk to people as to what they’re trying to do and put the equipment on order. That typically runs eight weeks as far as lead time. Then it takes a couple of weeks to install.

The key item is choosing your siting. We can sit down and talk about where you want to place it. You do have local permits that you have to deal with, but you’ve dealt with those every day because every time you put up utility poles, you have to deal with local authorities. So there’s a little bit of time to deal with there, but usually you can measure it in a week or so and not in months.

We’ve had people who ordered nine systems and had them in within 90 days.

Is it difficult for cooperatives to find financing for solar projects?
Simons: Typically, co-ops are good credit risks, so you’ve got a lot of [investors] who are interested. We’ve worked with a variety of different people.

(Ed Drew, NRTC’s VP, Utilities Solutions, added: “As the distributor for tenKsolar, [NRTC is] flexible to working with whatever makes sense for the local co-op. There are multiple sources of tax equity investment out there … We’ll get into meetings with them to help the process.”)

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

Sensus Utility Conference: Looking for the Direction to Take Data Analytics

Analytics was a major theme of the Sensus Utility Conference in Phoenix in early November. But the message was not so much what NRTC smart meter partner Sensus was planning to do with increased data analysis. Sensus was looking for what utilities are doing so far and where they would like to take analytics in the future. There was an open-ended feel to sessions with lots of requests for feedback.

Analytics is the practice of finding patterns in data from multiple sources and communicating the findings with understandable presentations. But what is the deeper meaning of analytics for electric utilities? Does the way some utilities use data today with their AMI systems without purchasing additional software count as analytics?

Brian Crow, Sensus VP, Data Analytics, said there are actually various levels of analytics complexity. “Things that we look at on the higher end are forecasts, such as how we forecast load on a transformer four or five days out and predict which ones are going to fail,” he said. Electrics will find out what additional resources they need as the go along.

Gulf Power Co., a Southern Company serving Alabama and Southwest Florida, has gradually developed an analytics process over several years, beginning in 2008 when it began widespread installation of Sensus meters. The company began observing patterns in the meter data that suggested voltage levels higher than state regulations allowed were forming in transponders.

“We called our buddies in the distribution department and asked them to send a crew to check these services and see if they could figure out what was wrong. And they kinda scoffed at us and said, ‘Nah, we wouldn’t have any transformers running voltages like that because if you did, the customers would be complaining,’” said Mike Wernicke, a senior engineer for Gulf Power. As it turned out, the crews were able to find the flaws before customers started complaining.

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

Also see additional Sensus Utility Conference coverage:


Reminder: Nominations for NRTC Board Elections Due in December

In November, NRTC emailed each active electric and telephone cooperative member a notice announcing that it is now taking nominations for NRTC’s board of directors. There will be voting on five seats at the 2015 NRTC Annual Meeting – four positions for electric cooperatives covering Districts 1, 8, 9 and 10 and one at-large position representing telcos.

The deadline for submitting nominations to NRTC for the four electric seats is 5 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, December 12, 2014. The deadline for nominations for the telco director is 5 p.m., Eastern Time, December 22, 2014.

As usual, the NRTC Annual meeting will be in two parts. The meeting for electric cooperatives will be on February 22, 2015, in Orlando, FL, coinciding with the NRECA Annual Meeting and TechAdvantage Expo. The telephone meeting, in conjunction with NTCA’s RTIME Conference and Expo, in Phoenix, AZ, will be on March 9. For more information, refer to the Call for Nominations email from last month or write to cmartin@nrtc.coop.

NRTC members also may contact their regional business managers.

ViaSat Examining the Possibility of Unlimited Bandwidth Option for Rural Subscribers

An online article in SpaceNews reports that ViaSat is considering an unlimited bandwidth option for Exede subscribers after the planned 2016 launch of its ViaSat-2 satellite. ViaSat executives discussed their long-term strategy during a recent conference call after the release of their quarterly financial results.

“ViaSat’s Exede consumer satellite broadband growth [on ViaSat-1] is slowing as high-demand areas fill up the beams allocated to them,” SpaceNews says. “ViaSat has said in the past it is determined not to open up new capacity on these beams by reducing service quality, meaning the only path to growth in the next two years will be luring customers in regions where demand has been lowest — the rural areas of the United States.”

The article suggests that ViaSat might be planning to test market unlimited bandwidth plans at premium prices in some of the less-filled beams in the years prior to ViaSat-2’s availability.

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

Broadband Experiment Program Draws Bids From Electric Utilities

According to an FCC press release, electric utilities were among “a diverse group of entities” that made bids for $100 million in support for experiments on rural broadband deployments. The long-term experiments will test how well different broadband technologies and business cases work in rural areas. The Commission now will analyze the nearly 600 bids from 181 separate applicants to analyze which have the best test plans at the lowest bid. The FCC said that applications came in from all 50 states and Puerto Rico. It did not indicate when it will announce the entities receiving support, but said that some of the experiments could begin by as soon as Spring 2015.

AWS-3 Auction Attracts Surprisingly Brisk Bidding

If anything proves there is insatiable demand for spectrum to support mobile communications, it is the competition going on right now for licenses in the FCC’s Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) auction. As of mid-day Nov. 26, the AWS-3 auction had completed 36 rounds for a more than $37.8 billion in total bids, easily blowing past the record dollar amount for any previous spectrum auction.

The bidding in the AWS-3 auction is for 1,614 licenses in the 1695-1710 MHz; 1755-1780 MHz, and 2155-2180 MHz bands. All indications are that the bidding could continue for weeks. In Round 36, the Commission received 256 new bids for a total of $356,745,400.

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


 

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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www.nrtc.coop

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

NRTC Partnering With NTCA to Develop the 2015 IP Possibilities Conference

Best Ideas for Establishing a Community Solar Project

Sensus Utility Conference: Looking for the Direction to Take Data Analytics

Reminder: Nominations for NRTC Board Elections Due in December

ViaSat Examining the Possibility of Unlimited Bandwidth Option for Rural Subscribers

Broadband Experiment Program Draws Bids From Electric Utilities

AWS-3 Auction Attracts Surprisingly Brisk Bidding

President Calls for Title II Regulation of the Internet

What Is the Most-Watched Screen? The Cell Phone

Wheeler Hopes to Redefine Video Regulations to Include Online Providers

Commission Assures That it Understands Need for Rural-Targeted Television

MIT Offers a List of Smart City Case Studies

NRTC Holiday Closures

Where You Can See NRTC

In Brief

President Calls for Title II Regulation of the Internet

President Barack Obama in a two-minute video message to the nation said directly that he favors Title II regulation of Internet service providers as telecommunications services under the Telecommunications Act. “In plain English, I’m asking [the FCC] to recognize that for most Americans, the Internet has become an essential part of everyday communication and everyday life,” he said.

Obama has long been in favor of net neutrality rules, but has never gone as far as to say that the FCC should invoke Title II. After the DC Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Commission’s former net neutrality rules in early 2014, the Commission immediately began drafting replacement rules that could hold up to legal challenges. The FCC received millions of public comments in response to proposed new rules and currently is reviewing the comments prior to issuing an order, perhaps before the end of the year or early next year.

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

What Is the Most-Watched Screen? The Cell Phone

Flurry, a mobile apps designer, says that Americans now spend about nine minutes a day more staring at their mobile devices than they do looking at the TV set. Flurry looked at federal government statistics to determine that most people on average watch about two hours and 48 minutes of television a day. Based on the analytics of its own apps, the company determined that people average just short of three hours a day watching video on their phones. Further, while the average daily TV viewing has remained about the same for several years, the growth in phone watching has been gaining steadily from 109 minutes a day in early 2012 to 177 minutes in third quarter 2014.

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

Wheeler Hopes to Redefine Video Regulations to Include Online Providers

In a recent blog post, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said that he had begun circulating a proposal to redefine Multichannel Video Program Distributor (MVPD), the legal term used to describe cable, satellite and IP television providers that operate under the conventional subscription television model. Wheeler would extend the same rules to over-the-top (OTT) TV program distributors. “The result should be to give consumers more alternatives from which to choose so they can buy the programs they want,” Wheeler said.

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

Commission Assures That it Understands Need for Rural-Targeted Television

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, in response to a member of Congress from a rural district, assures that the Commission is aware of the need to preserve TV programming developed for rural audiences as it considers proposed mergers of cable TV providers Comcast and Time Warner Cable, as well as IPTV and satellite TV providers AT&T and DirecTV.

“I can confirm that these issues have been highlighted in both proceedings by RFD-TV, a cable and satellite television network headquartered in your state, along with many of its viewers,” Wheeler said in a recent letter to Rep. Deb Fischer (R-NE). “Please be assured that the views of RFD-TV and its viewers will be given careful consideration as the staff reviews the record in the proceedings.”

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

MIT Offers a List of Smart City Case Studies

As panelists at the recent Sensus Utility Conference demonstrated, advanced grid communications and analytics technologies are a major component of the overall concept of the “smart city.” As cities deploy electric smart meters, they are finding ways to apply similar technologies to other city services, including water and sewer management, traffic control and emergency preparedness. The MIT Technology Review at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently posted a list of smart city case studies that gives a closer look at the coordinated activities.

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

NRTC Holiday Closures

NRTC’s offices will be closed:

• Thursday, December 25
• Friday, December 26
• Thursday, January 1
• Friday, January 2

Where You Can See NRTC

• Dec. 8-9: Indiana Statewide, Indianapolis, IN
NRTC RBM Mark Davis will attend

• Jan. 4-6: 2015 Wireless Symposium & WiExpo, Las Vegas, NV
NRTC staff will attend

• Jan. 11-13: NRECA CEO Close-up, St. Petersburg, FL
CEO Tim Bryan and Chief Marketing Officer Greg Santoro will attend

• Feb. 19-27: NRECA Annual Meeting and TechAdvantage Expo, Orlando, FL
NRTC staff will attend

• Feb. 22: NRTC Annual Meeting for electric cooperative members, Orlando, FL
NRTC staff will attend


See the NRTC Events page for more upcoming meetings.