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

NRTC and Pulse Broadband Lead Fiber Discussion in Tennessee

By Chris Martin, NRTC VP, NRTC Member & Industry Relations

Last week, more than 20 leaders representing 13 distribution cooperatives in Tennessee met in Nashville to discuss the importance of fiber to their utility operations and community development and learn more about deploying fiber in their communities.

NRTC developed the presentation with Pulse Broadband, a turn-key provider that designs, builds and operates fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) broadband networks in rural areas. To date, Pulse has worked with a dozen electric cooperatives, municipals and communities on fiber deployments.

NRTC highlighted the need for broadband by sharing current statistics and trends, including those related to smart grid. For example, a 2015 Black & Veatch survey indicating that 63 percent of electrics plan to upgrade or build communications facilities in the next five years, driven by the need to support advanced smart grid and mobile workforce applications, replace obsolete infrastructure and improve data analytics.

Pulse representatives focused on key aspects of design, building and operating a fiber network. They also pointed out advantages electric cooperatives have in deploying fiber, including existing infrastructure, rights of way and access to capital.

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

NRTC and SoCore Make Preparations to Expand Solar Energy in Rural America

In the few weeks since NRTC and SoCore Energy announced their plan to work together to support members' large- and small-scale solar projects across rural America, the two companies have been diligently preparing their joint offering. SoCore played host to NRTC’s Utility Solutions sales and technical staffs at its offices in Chicago.

SoCore’s staff trained NRTC on the details of solar technology, system installation, project financing and state/federal regulations. Most importantly, the two companies discussed the ways that the SoCore/NRTC partnership will be able to offer rural co-ops elements of innovation, integration and service that other solar vendors cannot match.

Under the plan, NRTC’s sales force will contact member cooperatives and share available SoCore information. A SoCore project developer will then work with NRTC to gather more information and offer a project proposal to interested cooperatives rapidly. After reaching an agreement and signing a contract, a SoCore project manager begins planning and executing installation. The process lasts an estimated two to five months from the initial NRTC contact to finish.

Participants at one of the Chicago sessions pictured here included (left to right): Brett Cullen, SoCore senior associate of Development & Acquisition; Russ Young, SoCore’s senior VP of Operations; Dick Martin, NRTC director, Sales-Electric; NRTC regional business managers (RBMs) Mark Davis, Steve Bell, Tanu Jacob and Chris Bradley; SoCore Senior VP of Development Eric Luesebrink; NRTC RBM Steve Hanson; Eve Tapscott, NRTC Business Coordinator; NRTC VP, Utility Solutions Ed Drew, and NRTC RBM Jay Smith.

RUS Awards $435 Million to Rural Broadband and Electric Infrastructure Projects

The Rural Utilities Service (RUS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced $74.8 million in loans through its Rural Broadband Program and $11 million in grants through the Community Connect Program. NRTC members receiving support include:

  • Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative, Anchorage, AK. $1.4 million grant to help finance an undersea fiber project and to provide high-speed Internet to the remote community of Point Hope, AK.
  • Consolidated Telephone Co., Brainerd, MN. $12.27 million loan for infrastructure enhancements and to build a fiber ring.
  • FTC Communications, Kingstree, SC. $12.38 million loan to upgrade its mobile data network to 4G LTE.
  • Garden Valley Telephone, Erskine, MN. $12.63 million loan for fiber infrastructure and various electronics upgrades.
  • Scott County Telephone Cooperative, Gate City, VA. $2.1 million grant to build a gigabyte network passing 540 households in Dickenson County, VA.
  • Triangle Telephone Cooperative, Havre, MT. $29.95 million loan for fiber deployment.

In a separate announcement, RUS awarded $349 million for infrastructure upgrades, including $17 million for smart grid projects. NRTC members on the list include:

  • Eastern Iowa Light & Power Cooperative, Wilton, IA. $44 million loan.
  • Macon Electric Cooperative, Macon, MO. $15.2 million loan, $2 million of which it will apply to smart grid systems.
  • Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative, Jordan, MN. $25.5 million loan, $2 million of which it will apply to smart grid systems.

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

 

Latest Release of Clevest Mobile Workforce Management Software Now Available

NRTC partner Clevest has released Mobile Workforce Management 5.2, its latest workforce automation system upgrade. The release includes enhanced versions of its Enterprise Scheduling and Appointment Booking features, which are now accessible through an online browser.

Clevest says that it used real-world situations and suggested best practices from experienced field workers to improve Enterprise Scheduling. The feature improves the efficiency of setting up crew assignments to save time and get the most out of field resources. Appointment Booking aims to cut down on customer wait times in response to service calls.

The company emphasizes the importance of consulting with its customers to develop the systems and that its solutions are based on actual past field calls and emergencies. “Our latest Mobile Workforce Management release continues to solve utilities’ operational challenges in a highly demanding environment where they are consistently forced to do more with less,” said Edna Menon, Clevest senior product manager.

Commission Approves New Rural Telco Bidding Credit in DE Overhaul

The FCC adopted an order providing a 15 percent bidding credit for rural Internet providers participating in next year’s 600 MHz Incentive Auction and future auctions. It was a part of a larger overall package of reforms to spectrum auction bidding rules meant to ensure that the benefits to designated entities (DEs) match congressional intent. But like many issues the Commission faces these days, it was contentious and passed by a party-line vote.

The rural bidding credit part of the order was not contentious. According to a press release, “service providers that provide commercial communications services to a customer base of fewer than 250,000 combined wireless, wireline, broadband, and cable subscribers and serve predominantly rural areas” qualify for the credit.

NTCA, the Rural Broadband Association’s CEO Shirley Bloomfield praised the bidding credit and bipartisan congressional support for it. She encouraged “the agency to offer robust opportunities to small carriers who seek low-band spectrum to serve rural communities.”

The major point of contention in the order was elimination of the “attributable material relationship rule.” Under the former rules, there were limits on the amount of spectrum that DEs could lease to large national carriers after obtaining licenses at discounted prices. The former rules also required a certain amount of “facilities-based” service from the DE and included shorter construction deadlines.

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

Pai Praises Rural Broadband Provider; Warns of Regulatory Uncertainty

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai spotlighted NRTC member Diller Telephone Co. in a statement last month. Pai discussed a recent visit to C&C Processing, a meat processing plant in the Nebraska town of 297 that has transformed itself into a national supplier with the help of fiber-fed Internet from Diller Telephone. “As [C&C co-owner] Chad [Lottman] and his wife Courtney told me, Internet access, delivered by Diller Telephone, has truly made all the difference. It’s a major point of pride in Diller. And C&C’s jerky is pretty darn good,” Pai said.

Pai said that Diller is just one example where he has seen rural broadband providers aiding businesses in their communities. “But along with this good news, I also heard recurring concerns. Time and time again, I was told that the rising level of regulatory uncertainty coming from our nation’s capital was a major barrier to infrastructure investment,” he said, acknowledging that some rural telcos have discontinued fiber projects due to the current regulatory environment.

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

Seventy-eight Percent of Rural Adults Use Internet, 6 Percent Below National Average

Pew Research Center released its annual look at the demographics using the Internet in the United States and found that usage in all parts of the country has been growing steadily over 15 years. In rural areas, however, there continues to be a 6 percent gap with the 84 percent national average and a 7 percent gap with urban and suburban users.

“Rural communities tend to have a higher proportion of residents who are older, lower-income, and have lower levels of educational attainment – additional factors associated with lower levels of Internet adoption,” the report finds.

This year’s Pew report uses data from 15 years of surveys, dating back to the year 2000 when 42 percent of rural adults used the Internet compared to 53 percent in urban areas and 56 percent in the suburbs. That gap of about 10 percent has remained consistent, although it has narrowed to about the current size since 2013.


 

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


© 2015 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 and Pulse Broadband Lead Fiber Discussion in Tennessee

NRTC and SoCore Make Preparations to Expand Solar Energy in Rural America

RUS Awards $435 Million to Rural Broadband and Electric Infrastructure Projects

Latest Release of Clevest Mobile Workforce Management Software Now Available

Commission Approves New Rural Telco Bidding Credit in DE Overhaul

Pai Praises Rural Broadband Provider; Warns of Regulatory Uncertainty

Seventy-eight Percent of Rural Adults Use Internet, 6 Percent Below National Average

Consumers Are Buying Smart Thermostats on Their Own

Report Warns That Consumer Interest in Connected Home Is Fading

Multi-Gigabit Service Comes With Hefty Price Tag

Do You Have Digital Amnesia?

Where You Can See NRTC

In Brief

Consumers Are Buying Smart Thermostats on Their Own

New research by Parks Associates estimates that about 40 percent of 10 million thermostats sold in the United States this year will be smart units. The report, “Winning Smart Home Strategies for Energy Management,” predicts that smart thermostats will reach a 50 percent share by 2017. While many electric utilities promote the use a of smart thermostats and offer them as part of energy management programs, Parks finds that a 45 percent plurality of smart thermostat sales currently sell through retailers, including Walmart, Target and BestBuy. But the report predicts sales through utilities could increase. “Leveraging data can help consumers reduce energy use and utilities meet energy efficiency and demand response goals. Further, energy providers have the opportunity to monetize the mountain of data derived from both smart meters and smart devices,” said Tom Kerber, Parks’ director, Research, Home Controls & Energy.

Report Warns That Consumer Interest in Connected Home Is Fading

Research by Argus Insights, a Silicon Valley analyst firm, shows that consumer demand for connected home products has dropped dramatically in 2015. Argus data shows that demand for home security systems, remote control thermostats, automated lighting systems and other devices in May 2015 was below the demand in it measured in May 2014, the first time it had found a year-to-year drop. The company predicts the slowdown will continue through the rest of the year. Argus concludes that the wave of early adopters has passed and there has not yet been a follow-up wave. “Consumers are not seeing the value yet from these home automation devices,” said Argus CEO John Feland.

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

Multi-Gigabit Service Comes With Hefty Price Tag

There is growing demand for residential gigabit service and some folks are even willing to go for multiple gigabits, but they better be ready to pay. Comcast has announced that the monthly rate for its Gigabit Pro is $299.95 for speeds up to 2 Gbps both upstream and downstream. It’s “up to” $500 for installation and “up to” another $500 for the activation fee. Then there’s another fee if you terminate your two-year agreement early. Oh, and if you want the full 2 Gbps throughput, you better have a fairly new computer (2.5 GHz processor or better) with the latest available operating system.

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

Do You Have Digital Amnesia?

Here’s another one of those problems that nobody worried about a few years ago: digital amnesia. People store information on their smartphones and computers that they used to record in notebooks, scrapbooks or keep in their heads. Vacation photos, friends’ phone numbers, or the address for the party you are attending next week may exist nowhere except in digital form. “Digital Amnesia is a growing trend among consumers of all ages, not just younger digital natives–and we need to better understand the direction and long term implications of this trend in order to protect the information we no longer store in our minds,” says Kaspersky Lab, a cyber-security company, in its report, “The Rise and Impact of Digital Amnesia: Why We Need to Protect What We No Longer Remember.” The point of the report is to convince people to invest in software to protect all that information.

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

Where You Can See NRTC

• Aug. 5-8: TVPPA Engineering & Operations Conference, Murfreesboro, TN
NRTC RBM Jay Smith will attend

• Aug. 11-14: TSE Technology Conference, Myrtle Beach, SC
NRTC RBM Jay Smith will attend

• Sept. 8-10: NRECA Meeting for Regions 1 & 4, Charlotte, NC
NRTC staff will attend

•Sept. 14-15: Golden State Power Co-op Annual Meeting, Palm Springs, CA
NRTC RBM Chris Bradley will attend

•Sept. 15-17: NRECA Meeting for Regions 5 & 6, Minneapolis, MN
NRTC staff will attend

• Sept. 15-18: TSE 33rd Annual Engineering Conference, Arlington, TX
NRTC RBM Steve Bell will attend

• Sept. 19-23: NTCA 2015 Fall Conference, Boston, MA
NRTC staff will attend

• Sept. 29 - Oct. 1: NRECA Meeting for Regions 7 & 9, Salt Lake City, UT
NRTC staff will attend


See the NRTC Events page for more upcoming meetings.