Rural Broadband Expansion Must be ‘Transformative’-FCC Chairman Wheeler

Sep 24, 2015

Hello from Boston! This week I’m writing from the NTCA rural broadband conference. 

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler drew parallels this week between the internet revolution and the setting of Boston for the NTCA rural broadband conference. Calling both the expansion of rural broadband and the war for independence as ‘revolutionary’, he aims for major changes in the structure of rural broadband networks saying that fast download and upload speeds are ‘the big goal’ for all Americans. 

In Chairman Wheeler’s opening keynote he targeted the idea of reforming the underlying structure of broadband networks to the standing room only audience of rural telco directors and managers. "Access to broadband is access to opportunity and should be accessible to all.” Wheeler said. 

Wheeler called for ultimately building a program to replace HCLS and ICLS and asked for the support of NTCA members saying the existing mechanisms were ’silly’ and based upon 'dated narrowband technology'. The purpose for reforming these networks is to enable fast access to everyone, Wheeler said, adding that nearly 50 percent of U.S. rural residents don’t yet have high speed access."We should support networks capable of world-class speeds. That’s what rural Americans deserve.” 

NTCA CEO Shirely Bloomfield reminded the nearly 900 carrier members of the unique and essential value they provide to customers.”You’re working everyday to make sure all Americans have access to comparable and affordable services.” she said.  Bloomfield highlighted emerging programs that NTCA has deployed including GIG-Certified, a certification that telcos can earn when they make available Cig-capable service to most customers. The Smart Rural Community Program (SRC) showcases the achievements of progressive companies through awards and recognitions when they 'demonstrate via application process their ability to deploy cutting edge networks and broadband-enabled applications'. The Fall Conference included breakout sessions where awardees shared their community collaboration stories and ideas for completing the SRC applications. 

Quick disclaimer: I’m here representing Endeavor Communications as a Director. While today I’m typing on hotel wifi, most of my blogs are enabled by my own access to affordable, high speed internet, as fact that rural telecos across the nation proudly offer.  NTCA connects the rural rate payer, the telco, and the government by providing services and a forum for discussion on the issues and opportunities for rural broadband.  Learn about the efforts of NTCA and find conference and member updates at www.ntca.org. 

Posted on September 24, 2015 .