Fall Conference Brings Opportunities for Growth through Collaboration
The first full day of NTCA's 2012 Fall Conference brought many opportunities for attendees to learn from one another and hear from experts on federal policy changes, industry trends and the upcoming presidential election.
The day started with a rousing awakening by the sea shanty musical group The Pyrates Royale, which kicked off the Opening General Session with swashbuckling renditions befitting of the conference's seaside location. Following a welcome from President Sandy Vandevender, NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield provided audience members with "five things you need to know right now," including how the tense political climate in Washington is guiding changes to the Universal Service Fund and other federal policies critical to the continued success of independent telcos.
"Business as usual is over," said Bloomfield, adding that the association continues to wage a rigorous battle for predictable rural broadband cost recovery mechanisms at the FCC, in Congress and the White House. "We're taking your challenges all the way to the top," she continued, "to ensure that the president understands that his vision for rural broadband will be compromised by the regulations that the FCC has ordered."
Bloomfield also updated attendees on the association's ongoing unification talks with OPASTCO, telling the crowd of more than 1,200 that "the mantra for the future will be partnership and collaboration" and urging attendees to learn more about the potential unification at one of Tuesday's "Director to Director" sessions with NTCA Vice President Terry Force.
Continuing the theme of collaboration, three panelists representing a variety of industry perspectives joined Bloomfield on stage for a discussion of "the power of scale." Scott Hart, general manager of South Plains Telephone Cooperative (Lubbock, Texas), shared how the telco achieved success in delivering IP-based TV service to its customers by sharing costs with other nearby coops. Max Huffman, executive director of Indatel Group, displayed a map of its members' network footprint, adding, "we need to fill in the blanks" by building more interstate partnerships among independent telcos. And Tim Bryan, chief executive officer of the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, spoke about his new role on the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board of directors, which is charged with building a nationwide public-safety broadband network.
Next up was Jim VandeHei, co-founder and executive editor of the highly influential political website and newspaper, POLITICO. VandeHei gave an insider's view of this fall's presidential race and some predictions on how the victor will handle issues of critical national import, such as the impending debt ceiling deadline and diplomatic missions in Libya.
Cal Ripken, Jr.
The session wrapped up with a keynote address by baseball hall-of-famer Cal Ripken Jr., who uplifted audience members with tales of his more than 20 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. Ripken is also a best-selling author and motivational speaker, reminding audiences all over the world to "love what you do" and use natural competitive instincts to improve their personal and work lives. Attendees thanked Ripken with a standing ovation.
After the Opening Session, conference participants chose from five education sessions. Today's programming featured sessions focused on everything from monetizing the smart home to machine-to-machine broadband to distance learning. Attendees gained valuable insight and knowledge from telecom executives and experts in the field. The afternoon also included a Women in Telecom Luncheon, meeting of the Industry, Wireless and Government Affairs committees, a session on NTCA's Smart Rural Communities initiative featuring strategic partner organizations and a brief visit by FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai.
FRS: All Aboard!
The trains never left the station, but a great time was had by all who attended the Foundation for Rural Service Evening at B & O Railroad Station.
While dinner was served surrounded by train cars, the real treat of the evening was stepping on the cars to get a look at trains from a bygone era. Attendees had the opportunity to see the evolution of trains and gain a better understanding of the impact of the railroad on our country.
Thanks to sponsors for their support including Finley Engineering Co., Interstate Telcom Consulting, Inc., John Staurulakis, Inc., Mapcom Systems, National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC), Pioneer Telephone Cooperative, Riazzi, Rhyne & Swaim Investment Group of Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC, TCA and Telcom Insurance Group.