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

New NRTC Branding to Emphasize Commitment to Members and Technology

This summer, look for big changes at NRTC. We will unveil a new logo and a redesigned NRTC.coop website. We’ll have a new look for our collateral and even this publication, NRTConnects, will have an updated, streamlined look.

The goal of the rebranding is to more effectively convey NRTC’s member and technology focus; make it easier for members to engage with us and reinforce NRTC’s values. As past NRTC Board Chairman Randy Houdek said while mentioning the rebranding during the 2016 NRTC annual meeting in February, “While NRTC’s story and technology solutions are evolving; its principles remain grounded in its rural and cooperative roots.”

NRTC CEO Tim Bryan revealed the new tagline that will go with the logo during the annual meeting: “Member Driven. Technology Focused.”

Perhaps the first thing members will notice is the new logo. At the annual meeting, Bryan reviewed the other three logos NRTC has used over its 30-year history. “You say, oh, wow, it’s a logo. But the logo means a heck of a lot more than just what it’s going to look like,” he said. “Our logo is only a reflection of what we’re hoping to convey.”

Also look for a new website that will maintain all the functionality of the current NRTC website, but with much more information about NRTC technology solutions. And, even more exciting, NRTC will launch a robust Member Portal so you can find more specialized information and better manage your interactions with NRTC.

After this issue, NRTConnects will take a brief break from its regular publication schedule and reemerge in August in a new, streamlined and mobile device-friendly format.

Webinar to Identify Ways Rural Providers Compete in OTT

Big-name players like Netflix and Amazon have the upper hand in online video distribution, but they don’t own it all. The opportunity for local, rural broadband providers to compete in the over-the-top (OTT) TV business is there. A panel from NRTC and NRTC’s NeoNova subsidiary will explain why in an upcoming webcast, “Five Dynamic Reasons to Implement a Streaming Video Strategy.”

NTCA, the Rural Broadband Association is hosting the webcast, which will begin at 2 p.m. Eastern Time on May 19. The speakers will include NRTC’s Madeleine Forrer, VP, Video Services, and Mark Chambers, director of Sales. Chris Beatson, NeoNova’s chief technology officer, will join them.

NRTC members that are also members of NTCA can register for the webcast today from the NTCA website. Non-NTCA members who are interested in the future of Internet video and would like to participate in the webcast should contact NRTC through SWilliams@nrtc.coop. We’ll work with interested NRTC members to schedule a separate, but identical webcast.

Telispire Recognized for Service to Rural Markets

Congratulations go out to Telispire, NRTC’s mobile phone subsidiary, for winning a 2016 Visionary Spotlight Award for its service to rural and underserved markets. The Visionary Spotlight Awards each year honor communications products in a wide range of categories. ChannelVision Magazine featured Telispire and the other award winners in its March/April issue.

“Telispire is honored to be selected as an award winner among some of the industry’s leaders in communications and technology,” Telispire CEO Curtis Knobloch said following the awards announcement.

Telispire is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). It provides rural telcos the opportunity to sell access to the latest 4G LTE mobile phone services without having to finance costly wireless infrastructure construction. In addition, Telispire provides back office support, marketing assistance and other tools to help its rural members achieve success.

“Customers WANT to do business with companies in their local communities, but up until the deployment of 4G LTE, they were unwilling to move to local telecom providers’ 3G networks. Telispire has enabled these local telecom companies to focus on the key differentiators that push them over the top in rural markets – supporting the local economy and receiving discounts on bundled services,” Telispire said in its application to the Visionary Spotlight competition.

Controversial Lifeline Program Updated to Include Standalone Broadband

With the flurry of important activity coming out of the FCC lately, such as the open of the incentive auction and the standalone broadband mechanism for rate-of-return carriers, the Commission also recently adopted significant changes to the USF Lifeline program. Lifeline has in the past provided affordable landline phone and later mobile phone service to low-income households since 1985. The now modernized $2.25 billion program will provide standalone broadband service.

The minimum performance level for fixed broadband will be 10 Mbps downstream/1 Mbps upstream with a 150 GB monthly usage allowance. For mobile users, the program supports 500 megabytes of 3G services per month, with the allotment gradually increasing each year until reaching 2 gigabytes per month by the end of 2018.

“By dramatically improving Lifeline’s management and design and putting the program on sound fiscal footing moving forward, we will help low-income Americans all across our nation connect to the Internet and the opportunities of the broadband revolution,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

As usual with the FCC these days, the order did not pass without controversy. Both Republican members of the FCC dissented from the order after an expected bipartisan compromise broke down. In fact, differences over the order delayed the FCC’s monthly agenda meeting last month by several hours.

To read the rest of this post, go to NRTC’s Rural Connect; also see “Republican FCC Commissioners Support Lifeline Budget Caps.

Researchers Working Toward Solar Generation on Rainy Days

As NRTC, SoCore and cooperatives work together to introduce solar electricity in many parts of rural America, it is worth noting that we are still in relatively early stages of solar technology development. Where it takes large areas of land or rooftop space and steady sunshine to collect power now, the process could become much more efficient someday.

A recent clip in Business Insider describes investigations by Chinese researchers at the Ocean University in Qingdao into solar panels based on “graphene.” They have had encouraging results from “all-weather cells” that use standard photovoltaic technology in the sunshine but actually draw power from raindrops during inclement weather using graphene capabilities.

“Because raindrops are not made up of pure water, and contain various salts that split up into positive and negative ions, [the Chinese team] thinks we can harness power via a simple chemical reaction,” according the Business Insider article.

Thin sheets of graphene, a graphite-based compound developed about 50 years ago, consist of layers of carbon atoms, which have proven to be extremely efficient conductors. Graphene is at the center of promising superconductor development that could lead to more efficient energy distribution as well as device and battery development.

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

Study Finds That Strong Rural Broadband Is a Good Deal for Urban Economies

As Congress and the FCC scuffle over universal service mechanisms for rural-serving rate-of-return carriers, a disinterested city dweller might ask, “What’s in it for me? Why should I help pay for broadband network services to small populations in remote areas nowhere near us?”

The Hudson Institute released a study, “The Economic Impact of Rural Broadband,” that answers that question directly. “The rural broadband industry influences the size of the economy through employment and purchases of goods and services,” concludes the report, which Hudson released during a recent luncheon in downtown DC. “The access that these firms provide to networks that reach around the world are a necessary input to all that makes up e-commerce. In this way rural broadband defines the economic geography of the United States, making it feasible for some economic activity to take place in some locations and infeasible in others.”

“The rural broadband industry influences the size of the economy through employment and purchases of goods and services,” the report concludes. “The access that these firms provide to networks that reach around the world are a necessary input to all that makes up e-commerce. In this way rural broadband defines the economic geography of the United States, making it feasible for some economic activity to take place in some locations and infeasible in others.”

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

Wireless Technology Changing Irrigation Management

Advanced communications technology advancing agriculture is nothing new. Farmers have been using GPS systems on their tractors to cut more precise and efficient rows for the last two decades. The current trend is toward applying wireless technology to farming practices, especially toward more environmentally friendly irrigation, according to a new report, “The Farmer and the Data: How Wireless Technology is Transforming Water Use in Agriculture.”

“The uses and benefits of wireless technology for irrigation management vary geographically. Some states, such as California, can rely on wireless technology to manage water use in the face of drought while others, such as Minnesota, can rely on wireless technology to manage water use to avoid nutrient run-off and groundwater contamination,” according to the study by the Brattle Group prepared for the CTIA Wireless Foundation. “In all cases, better management of irrigation, and the incorporation of wireless technology, is likely to bring significant benefits.”

The study focuses on how some farms, use current 3G or 4G mobile data networks to track real time data in their fields. Moisture-sensing devices allow farmers from remote positions at any time in the day to more accurately determine when to irrigate and when to shut the water down. For example, a case study in the report mentions a farmer who controlled his irrigation system smoothly from more than 100 miles away in a hospital while undergoing cancer treatments.

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.

© 2016 NRTC
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www.nrtc.coop

Our Mission

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

In This Issue

New NRTC Branding to Emphasize Commitment to Members and Technology

Webinar to Identify Ways Rural Providers Compete in OTT

Telispire Recognized for Service to Rural Markets

Controversial Lifeline Program Updated to Include Standalone Broadband

Researchers Working Toward Solar Generation on Rainy Days

Study Finds That Strong Rural Broadband Is a Good Deal for Urban Economies

Wireless Technology Changing Irrigation Management

RUS Accepting Applications for Broadband Loans and Community Connect Grants

Survey Finds Traditional Subscription TV Still Popular in Rural Markets

Federal Government Tries to Get a Grasp of the IoT Future

Where You Can See NRTC

In Brief

RUS Accepting Applications for Broadband Loans and Community Connect Grants

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) has opened a filing window for eligible carriers seeking low-cost loans in its Rural Broadband Access Loans and Loan Guarantees Program. Interested parties have until July 7 to file applications for loans of at least $100,000 to a maximum of $10 million. Loans are available for fixed or wireless broadband projects offering a minimum of 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream. At the same time, RUS is also accepting applications for the Community Connect Grant Program. Eligible applicants have until June 17 to apply for a share of $11.74 million available through the program in FY 2016. RUS will award grants at a minimum of $100,000 and a maximum of $3 million. The Community Connect grants establish “broadband service to currently unserved, lower-income, and extremely rural areas.

Survey Finds Traditional Subscription TV Still Popular in Rural Markets

Survey results announced this week by Innovative Systems, a Mitchell, SD-based company selling Internet servers, show only 1 percent of rural households are pure cord-cutters viewing over-the-top programming exclusively. At the same time, 82 percent of rural households subscribe to traditional cable, satellite or IPTV subscription services. Research firm Cronin Communications conducted the phone survey of 400 homes served by rural independent video providers. The survey also found that subscription TV viewers pay an average of $90.64 a month for service. About 75 percent of the surveyed homes had Internet service and although few relied on OTT alone, 23 percent of all households streamed an average of 7.59 hours of programming a week.

Federal Government Tries to Get a Grasp of the IoT Future

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is requesting public comments on the state of Internet of Things technologies. In a notice in the Federal Register, it asks about the directions of the technology and infrastructure; the likely future effects of IoT on the economy; the levels of international engagement, and the how IoT should affect the future of federal policy. “How should government and the private sector collaborate to ensure that infrastructure, policy, technology, and investment are working together to best fuel IoT growth and development?” NTIA asks. It also asks how “IoT [could] affect and be affected by questions of economic equity,” including in rural areas. NTIA will incorporate the responses to its request in a “green paper” report to the public. Comments are due to NTIA by May 23.

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

Where You Can See NRTC

• May 5-6: Telispire Forum, Nashville, TN
NRTC staff will attend

• May 10-12: NRECA CONNECT Conference, Portland, OR
NRTC’s Matt Timmons will attend

• May 16-18: TVPPA Annual Conference, Sandestin, FL
NRTC RBM Jay Smith will attend

• May 17-18: Clevest User Group Meeting, Austin, TX
NRTC Utility Solutions team member will attend

• May 18-20: Northeast Association of Electric Cooperatives Annual Meeting, Lake Placid, NY
NRTC Chief Financial Offier Terry Gilmore will attend

• May 19: Five Dynamic Reasons to Implement a Streaming Video Strategy, Webcast
Madeleine Forrer, NRTC VP, Video Services and NRTC Director of Sales Mark Chambers will present

• May 22-25: Neonova Affiliate Summit, Jackson Hole, WY
NRTC staff will attend

• May 23-27: New Mexico Rural Electric Coop Association Annual Meeting, Ruidoso, NM
NRTC RBM Chris Bradley will attend


See the NRTC Events page for more upcoming meetings.