Smart Rural Community

School Bus Wi-Fi, Sears, and Smart Rural Community

   Soon after landing my first "real" job, I made a habit of visiting Sears each weekend to buy a tool. It started with a small, wood-handle hammer (which remains my favorite), and was followed over time by screwdriver sets, pliers, clamps, and other toolbox basics. Added to what I purchased on an "as needed basis" for specific jobs (tile cutters, Jorgenson clamps, etc.), it was a relatively painless way to build a working collection over time. During those years, Sears was busy, staffed, and stocked.

A few weeks ago, I visited a Sears location to return an item that I had purchased on-line. I was surprised by how vacant the store appeared; that is best word I can find to describe it. Half-filled shelves, barren aisles, and wide-open spaces illuminated with harsh fluorescent lighting only seemed to emphasize how empty the place was.

What "The Sopranos" Teaches Us About Rural America

An excerpt of dialogue from the HBO series “The Sopranos” illustrates themes discussed in the latest Smart Rural Community white paper, “Steel Sharpens Steel: A Conversation About Regional Thinking for Rural America:”

"I tell ya, we each and every one of us, we're alone in the ring, fighting for our lives . . ."

"Well, that's one way to look at it. It's actually an illusion those two boxers are separate entities. Their separate entities is simply the way we choose to perceive them. It's physics; Schrodinger's equation. The boxers, you, me we're all part of the same quantum field. Think of the two boxers as ocean waves or currents of air, two tornadoes, say. They appear to be two things, right? Two separate things. But they're not. Tornadoes are just wind, the wind stirred up in different directions. The fact is, nothing is separate; everything's connected. The universe is just one big soup of molecules bumping up against one another. The shapes we see exist only in our own consciousness."

Anticipating Economic Returns of Rural Telehealth

Rural Americans face a number of very dramatic health challenges. They tend to be older, less affluent, and subject to higher instances of chronic disease than their urban counterparts. Despite the fact that the United States as a whole spends more on health care than any other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development country, rural Americans continue to face lower life expectancies than those living in urban areas.

Telehealth—“the remote delivery of health care services and clinical information using telecommunications technology”—holds tremendous potential to improve the quality, cost and availability of health care in rural areas.

A recent Smart Rural Community (SRC) white paper, “Anticipating Economic Returns of Rural Telehealth,” outlines the case to be made for increasing adoption of telehealth in rural areas, and throughout the country. 

According to the paper, the nonquantifiable benefits of telehealth are numerous: improved access to specialists, speedier treatment, the comfort of remaining close to home, eliminating the need for long-distance transportation, the ability for health care providers to sharpen their skills, and improved patient outcomes.

Silver Bullets, Silver Buckshot

  Over the past several years, I have had the privilege and good fortune to work with and learn from several respected academics who study telecom and rural issues. If there is one idea that I draw from their inquiries and conclusions (and even their tentative conclusions), it is that there is no silver bullet to address rural America. There is, however, silver buckshot.

Rural Just Got a Whole Lot Smarter

Earlier this month, the Smart Rural Community Advisory Council met at NTCA offices in Arlington to designate the 2016 class of Smart Rural Community (SRC) Showcase award recipients. Since 2013, 44 NTCA members have been recognized for demonstrating excellence in collaborating with other local leaders to incorporate broadband-enabled solutions to support economic development, education, health care, public safety and other vital community functions. The most recent group of Showcase award companies will be announced at the NTCA Fall Conference in Indianapolis next month.

Education, Health Care Enjoy Support with Smart Rural Community Awards

What do students in Alaska, vacationers in Vermont, and medical patients in Minnesota have in common? They all benefit from broadband-enabled solutions supported in part by Smart Rural Community (SRC) Collaboration Challenge awards.

Since 2014, Smart Rural Community has provided nearly $24,000 in matching funds to support community-building initiatives in rural America.
Since 2014, Smart Rural Community has provided nearly $24,000 in matching funds to support important initiatives in rural America.

Rainbow Communications Embarks on Smart Rural Community Road Tour

On September 21, 2015, Rainbow Communications of Everest, Kansas, received the Smart Rural Community Showcase award. In its application, Rainbow Communications highlighted as many as twenty different local organizations and businesses that utilize broadband to enhance growth and innovation.

Smart Rural Community Grant Energizes Community

   In 2014, Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom (WCVT) (Waitsfield, Vt.) earned a Showcase Award in the NTCA Smart Rural Community (SRC) program. In 2015, WCVT secured an SRC Collaboration Challenge grant, which matched community funding for a free downtown Wi-Fi network. Kurt Gruendling, WCVT Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, shares with New Edge the inspiration for the network and how it has changed WCVT and its communities. A map of all SRC award companies can be found here.

NE:     What sparked the idea to create a free downtown Wi-Fi network?

KG:    We saw an opportunity to expand high-speed access outside the home. Our high-speed service to residential and commercial customers is great, but we wanted to extend the mobility outside of the home and enhance the perceived value of our services by offering a community Wi-Fi


NTCA Unveils Interactive Map

NTCA has unveiled a new, interactive map that highlights telecommunications providers that have received acknowledgement through a variety of association recognition programs. 

The map identifies 32 Smart Rural Community (SRC) Showcase Award winners across the United States and Canada. SRC Showcase Awards highlight efforts that make rural communities vibrant places in which to live and do business. The map also identifies six Collaboration Challenge grant recipients. The grant program confers awards to promote collaborative efforts in economic development, education, energy, health care and public safety. 

Also denoted on the map are 62 Certified Gig-Capable Providers that are delivering Internet speeds of up to 100 times faster than those currently available in many U.S. households. 

More information on SRC and the Gig Certification program is available online.


PRTC Hosts FCC Chairman Wheeler and Congressman Hal Rogers

 FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler visited McKee, Ky., on February 8 to highlight Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative’s success in creating a high-speed,    fiber optic network in one of the most rugged and economically depressed areas of the country.

“I hope you folks realize what a big deal this is, and what a big deal connecting every home and business to high-speed fiber is,” Wheeler said.

The chairman said he often speaks in other communities around the nation and across the world. “Now, I’m going to be talking about Jackson County in those other places. And I’ll tell them that, ‘If they can do it up in those hol­lers, you can, too.’”

Fiber technology is shaping the future of rural Kentucky, where high-speed, broadband Internet attracts employers and offers the foundation for tomorrow’s technologies today.