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

IP Possibilities: Partnerships Are a Must for Rural Broadband Providers Expanding Their Markets

One of the featured topics of the IP Possibilities conference in Denver was “collaboration.” It was a carryover from the Electric-Telco Partnership Summit earlier this year, where NRTC, NTCA and other organizations brought rural general managers from both industries into the same room to discuss ways to launch joint broadband projects.

IP Possibilities, April 14-16, built on the Summit’s focus on the many different partnerships types available to electrics and telcos to grow their businesses, improve operational efficiencies, and serve rural communities. At the same time, IP Possibilities speakers discussed the need to look for partnerships to expand revenue-earning in a new communications environment.

“We are a broadband company. We are no longer a phone company,” said Ron McCue, president and chief operating officer, Silver Star Communications, a for-profit telco that serves portions of Wyoming and Idaho.

Silver Star has been forming partnerships to lay fiber plant going back as far as 1993. The company’s first partner, in fact, was an electric company, Lower Valley Energy. That particular project involved some rather interesting stories about using helicopters to lay fiber across the Snake River Canyon while at the same time protecting bald eagles.

To read the rest of this post, go to NRTC’s Rural Connect; Also see additional IP Possibilities coverage:

Register Today for Parseous Systems 217-220 MHz Webinar

For rural cooperatives planning SCADA, demand response and distributed automation networks, NRTC and its partner Parseous Systems are holding a webinar to discuss the advantages of using the 217-220 MHz band. You can register now for the webinar, which the companies will present at 1 p.m., Tuesday, May 12. Parseous Chairman and CEO Brian Andrew and VP, Marketing & Business Development Jo Ellen Andrew will lead the discussion on how to obtain 217-220 MHz licenses, which are highly coveted by several industries. Parseous offers the only FCC-approved radios that allow a utility to use all 240 channels in the 217-220 MHz band for one license fee.

NRECA SUNDA Team Offers Solar Financing Ideas

NRTC has noted how much co-op interest there is in solar projects, such as the NRTC/tenKsolar Community Solar offering. However, financing solar projects is somewhat more complicated for cooperatives because government tax benefits of up to 30 percent, which expire at the end of 2016, do not apply directly to them. Members of NRECA’s Solar Utility Network Deployment Acceleration (SUNDA) project, on a recent webcast, reviewed the various financing approaches available to rural cooperatives and demonstrated an online tool that will allow them to assess the options.

SUNDA is a long-term project NRECA is leading with partial funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. Its goal is to assist electric cooperatives in lowering costs and removing other barriers to rural photovoltaic (PV) system construction.

A tax equity flip will be the financing option most cooperatives likely would use, said SUNDA Project Manager Paul Carroll. A co-op creates a taxable “blocker” subsidiary. The blocker company and an equity investor form a “special purpose entity” (SPE) partnership that builds and manages the solar project and is eligible to receive the federal tax credits. In the beginning the equity investor owns 99 percent of the SPE, but the cooperative gradually buys equity in the company over five to seven years and eventually buys out the equity investor to become the 100 percent owner.

“You can imagine though, that there’s a fair amount of legal work in setting up the special purpose entity … Ongoing legal fees associated in making sure that all the tax filings are properly filed,” Carroll said. “This is not an inexpensive deal to set up. It can be done well, but it is not easy to do.”

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

Net Neutrality Order Now Has Seven Challengers

As expected, the publication of the FCC’s Open Internet order in the Federal Register drew several appeals at a rapid pace. The number could grow, but the total has held at seven for several weeks. Whether it is a magnificent seven depends on your political leanings.

USTelecom was the first to file an appeal on the first day it was eligible to do so. In the days that followed, Alamo Broadband, the American Cable Association (ACA), AT&T, CTIA-The Wireless Association, and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association also filed. That represents nearly all corners of the broadband ISP market, including small, rural providers through ACA.

All but one of the seven filed their appeals with the U.S. Court Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Alamo Broadband filed with the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans. It is, therefore, most likely that the DC Circuit, which has ruled against the FCC in two earlier net neutrality cases, will hear this appeal.

Also see:

Aluminum Could Be the Right Chemistry for Mobile Batteries, Home Energy Storage

There was a flurry of Internet reaction last month to news out of Stanford University that scientists there have developed an aluminum-based battery that will charge up in one minute. If all of the claims about this battery hold up, it is easy to predict that aluminum-ion cells will quickly replace the current standard lithium-ion batteries for smart phones, tablets and other devices.

According to the school, researchers have known for some time that aluminum would make a good material for batteries, but were missing an essential ingredient to pair with it. “People have tried different kinds of materials for the cathode,” said Stanford chemistry professor Hongjie Dai. “We accidentally discovered that a simple solution is to use graphite, which is basically carbon. In our study, we identified a few types of graphite material that give us very good performance.”

A Stanford University video also explains that aluminum-ion batteries do not degrade over time as lithium-ion batteries do. This could be a significant advance for electric utilities and consumers seeking power storage media for alternative and distributed energy projects.

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

Cost Is Still a Barrier to Smartphone Adoption

Various forms of Internet adoption in rural America tend to lag urban and suburban areas, but one of the most pronounced gaps may be in smartphone adoption. This year’s Smartphone report from the Pew Research Center finds that nearly two out of three adults in the United States today use a smartphone but that only 52 percent rural adults use one.

In spite of the rapid growth of mobile Internet devices, smartphones are still somewhat of a luxury. “For many smartphone owners, the ongoing cost of ownership can be a financial hardship: 23 percent have had to cancel or shut off their cell phone service for a period of time because it was too expensive to maintain,” the report finds.

Low-income households tend to subscribe to low-cost individual monthly data plans; these plans are the most likely to be cancelled at some time due financial pressure. High-income households tend to subscribe to group or family data plans.

At the same time, it is the most low-income households that tend to be “smartphone-dependent.” Thirteen percent of households with incomes under $30,000 have only their mobile devices for Internet access. That compares to 5 percent of homes earning between $30,000 and $75,000, and 1 percent of households earning more than $75,000.

Nearly half of smartphone-dependent households have had to cut their service for a time due to finances.

Comcast Ready to Begin Offering Multi-gigabit to the Home

It seems like only yesterday that Google announced plans to build gigabit service in the Kansas City area, but really it was nearly two and a half years ago … a very long time in the Internet world. So it is about time for carriers to start talking multi-gigabit.

Comcast has announced that it will soon be offering 2 Gbps service to residences in an area covering 1.5 million people in Atlanta. The first “Gigabit Pro” customers will go live beginning in May. Comcast also said that it will be a symmetrical service … 2 Gbps both downstream and upstream. The goal is to spread the service to 18 million homes nationwide by the end of 2015.

Gigabit Pro is different from most Comcast systems. It will be entirely fiber-to-the home rather than the more typical hybrid-fiber-coaxial (HFC) broadband service using DOCSIS 3.0 technology. According to a blog post by Marcien Jenckes, Comcasts’s executive VP, Consumer Services, the company will begin offering HFC over the upgraded DOCSIS 3.1 by early 2016 in areas where it does not offer Gigabit Pro. “When [DOCSIS 3.1 is] fully deployed, it will mean almost every customer in our footprint will be able to receive gigabit speeds over our existing network,” Jenckes said.


 

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


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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

IP Possibilities: Partnerships Are a Must for Rural Broadband Providers Expanding Their Markets

Register Today for Parseous Systems 217-220 MHz Webinar

NRECA SUNDA Team Offers Solar Financing Ideas

Net Neutrality Order Now Has Seven Challengers

Aluminum Could Be the Right Chemistry for Mobile Batteries, Home Energy Storage

Cost Is Still a Barrier to Smartphone Adoption

Comcast Ready to Begin Offering Multi-gigabit to the Home

Broadband Infrastructure Vulnerable in Some Rural Areas

New Antenna Design Could Be a Step to 5G Wireless

MPVDs Slightly Down, Online Video Growing Says Annual Competition Report

Adobe Predicts Online Viewing Will Be Majority Mobile by Late 2016

Where You Can See NRTC

In Brief

Broadband Infrastructure Vulnerable in Some Rural Areas

Associated Press is reporting rural broadband Internet service outages for extended times … sometimes for days after damage to fiber optic cables by vandals and other causes. In rural areas where there is fiber infrastructure, the broadband service is as fast as or often faster than urban service. But unlike city centers, there is less likelihood that there will be backup systems to handle online traffic during emergencies. AP quotes Sean Donelan, a former official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as saying, “The more rural the location, the more likely that there’s only one road in and out of that location … If someone manages to cut that fiber, you’ll generally see a one- or two- or three-day outage.”

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

New Antenna Design Could Be a Step to 5G Wireless

To be completely accurate, there is no definition for “fifth generation” (5G) wireless technology yet. There are product developers working on ideas for gigabit air link systems with improved spectral efficiencies over current 4G LTE technology. During a recent New York City event, Nokia and Mitsubishi demonstrated an Active Phased Array Antenna (APAA) system that could go a long way toward reaching 5G goals. The aim of the system is to multiplex and control four beams simultaneously for more efficient spectrum use. The various cellular bands at 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1.8 MHz, 1.9 MHz, and 2.1 MHz have growing traffic congestion. Next year’s auction of former TV bands for mobile broadband services will provide some relief, but by the time carriers are ready to introduce 5G, there likely will be a need for greater efficiency in all the available bands.

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

MPVDs Slightly Down, Online Video Growing Says Annual Competition Report

The FCC released its 16th Annual Video Competition Report to Congress with a snapshot of the video business as it was in 2013. Why 2013? Well, the Commission never quite got around to completing and releasing the report in 2014. But the report attaches some hard numbers to trends that continue into 2015. For example, the report finds that multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) experienced the first-ever decline in subscribers during 2013 — 101.0 million to 100.9 million households. Cable TV providers took the full brunt of the loss as satellite TV providers saw a slight increase and telco-owned MVPDs had a significant increase from 9.9 million to 11.3 million households.

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

Adobe Predicts Online Viewing Will Be Majority Mobile by Late 2016

The FCC’s somewhat tardy video competition statistics (see item above) marked the 2013 decline in MVPD subscribers while online viewing went up. Adobe Systems’ has released somewhat more recent numbers in its U.S. Digital Video 2014 Inaugural Report. In spite of monthly data limits, short battery lives and spotty wireless coverage in some areas, video viewing on mobile devices is growing much more rapidly in popularity than desktop viewing. Twenty-six percent of online video views were mobile in 2014, which was double the amount of 2012. “New devices, stronger connections, and content optimized for multiple platforms will drive mobile to overtake desktop video viewing by Q4 2016,” Adobe predicts.

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

Where You Can See NRTC

• May 12-15: NRECA Connect Conference, Minneapolis, MN
NRTC VP, Member and Industry Relations Chris Martin and Sales and Marketing Manager Matt Timmons will attend

• May 17-20: REMDC, St. Louis, MO
VP, Business Development Brad Seibert will attend

• May 18-20: Tennessee Valley Public Power Association Annual Meeting, Chattanooga TN
NRTC RBM Ronnie Billodeaux will attend

• May 21-22: Georgia Marketing, Member Services & Communications Conference, Hilton Head, SC
Sales and Marketing Manager Matt Timmons will attend

• May 21-22: Telispire Forum, Nashville, TN
NRTC staff will attend

• June 7-10: CFC Forum, Chicago, IL
CEO Tim Bryan will present; NRTC staff will attend


See the NRTC Events page for more upcoming meetings.