Most ACA Connects and NTCA members share a company origin story about an individual or individuals who saw a need in their community for telephone, cable, or broadband. These resourceful people managed to find or create the resources to build the networks that connect their neighbors with the outside world. Attending NTCA’s RTIME and ACA Connects Summit was a great reminder of the individuals who laid the foundation for the rural broadband industry.
No government funded overbuilds is the message that Patricia (Patty) Jo Boyers has for policymakers and regulators. She explains that it is critical that the tens of billions of dollars of federal funding, such as the $42.5B BEAD program, finance the building of broadband networks for the unserved and underserved; not to locations that already have broadband. As a first-generation cable provider that has evolved to be a broadband operator, Boyers admits that this issue is personal.
A recurring message at NTCA’s 2023 RTIME was the importance of educating policymakers that the current unprecedented capital expenditures in broadband will be for naught if sustainability is not part of the plan. Even though new networks have a lower total cost of ownership than older copper technology, the costs per subscriber to operate and maintain a network that has only a few connections per mile can be significantly higher than an urban network with hundreds of connections per mile.
Neighbors helping neighbors is a necessity in rural America. Simply, there are not enough resources (e.g., the necessity of volunteer fire departments), and it requires a robust community to survive. Speaking at the ACA Connects Summit, Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) reflects on his rural roots and how neighbors must put differences aside and work together to solve common problems. The write-up associated with the video interview also summarizes his reintroduced legislation, the Digital Equity Foundation Act of 2023.
Autonomous technology, where mobility is a subset, is the vision AppliedEV had on display at CES 2023. With a variety of robot arms and purpose-built, electric chassis, autonomous movement is clearly an important parameter driving the design of their driverless work vehicles. What differentiates the AppliedEV vehicles is that the purpose of the vehicles they are producing is to improve industrial productivity.
- And this report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and the Eno Center for Transportation (Eno) looks at the C-Band spectrum sale/aviation issues as a case study for identifying improvements, particularly between various government agencies, in the future allocation of spectrum. Viodi started following this early on with this 11/30/20 Viodi article reporting on the RCTA’s concerns about possible interference from 5G using C-Band frequencies.
- In the Groundhog Day department, John Klatt of Lakeland Communications reports that the arcane rules of the Sarbanes Oxley Act still have not been updated since this 2016 ViodiTV interview. These rules cause significant overhead for a smaller, locally-owned company; sapping resources that could be used for broadband deployment.
- Autonomous transportation isn’t just for rural America, as May Mobility and Via, are showing some impressive results with their 18-month pilot in Grand Rapids, MN (which, coincidentally is part of the Paul Bunyan Communications service territory). There are lots of questions, but some of the statistics indicate it is helping people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get around the 17-mile route. People in wheelchairs have taken 24% of the rides. There have been a total of 1,500 riders for this no-cost, on-demand service in a town with a population of only 11,000. It is important to note that, although the vehicle is driving itself, there is an onboard attendant to oversee its operation as well as assist the passengers.
- A young, but wise beyond his years, tech CEO made the observation yesterday that without the tech industry, the U.S. would be an also-ran. This statement was made in the context of the failure of Silicon Valley Bank, which has been the lifeblood of the tech industry, particularly start-ups. Let’s hope that the failure of the tech industry’s bank isn’t an October 1929 moment and that it does not spread to small-town America.
“We’re not just building networks. We’re actually building bridges into our future and ultimately building bridges of freedom.”Mickey Smith, Jr. at NTCA’s RTIME 2023
As the keynote speaker at NTCA’s RTIME, Smith encapsulates the important work of NTCA members in this ViodiTV interview. The connections he made and the stories from growing up in a rural Louisiana hamlet that is long gone had a huge influence on who he has become. His story reflects the parallel paths of NTCA members and their respective staff.