Making (Meaningful) Change

Keith Gabbard, CEO and GM of Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative in McKee, Kentucky,
cuts the ribbon for the Smart Rural Community-supported Virtual Living Room/VALOR at
which U.S. service veterans can obtain no-cost access to V.A. telehealth and other online services.


For as much as I research and talk about technology, I am not an ardent early adopter. It is not that I do not appreciate or believe in the usefulness of various applications; it's more that I am selective about employing technology that will make a meaningful and useful difference in my life. And, so, while I have not yet installed a smart lock on the front door of my house, it is a device that is in the not-too-distant future. I have not yet identified a compelling need for a smart refrigerator at my house, but I have a family members (elderly) for whom I think such an appliance would be useful.

At last year's Consumer Electronics Show, the buzz was about how to grasp the reins of technology and make it matter. NTCA's Smart Rural Community initiative offers that same opportunity through its Collaboration Challenge grant program.

The Collaboration Challenge takes its name from a critical aspect of the program: it demands matching funds for grants of up to $5,000, but stipulates that those matching funds (50 cents on the dollar) should not come from the NTCA member applicant. Rather, the matching funds are to be provided by a third-party with which the NTCA collaborates to deploy a broadband-enabled solution.

Collaboration Challenge funds have been used to support education in Alaska, elder care in Minnesota, economic development in Vermont, and an innovative telehealth program for U.S. armed forces veterans in Kentucky. In those instances, matching funds were provided by a community college, a hospice, local area businesses, and a public library. Each of those institutions worked with their local broadband provider, an NTCA member, to identify an opportunity to improve things with broadband. Since 2012, rural communities throughout the United States have benefitted from $40,000 in support (SRC thanks program sponsors Mapcom, NISC, and NRTC for their generous support of these and other important community initiatives).

The application process is fairly simple - tell us what you want to do; with whom you plan to do; how much it will cost; and the impact you predict it will make on your community (see guidelines and additional information here). The deadline for applications is December 31, 2017.

Make this year the one in which to make some meaningful change.

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