WASHINGTON (February 8, 2013)—Representatives of two NTCA member companies participated in a summit hosted by the FCC this week to share their experiences leading programs intended to spur broadband adoption among rural and low-income consumers.
Derrick Bulawa, chief executive officer of BEK Communications Cooperative (Steele, N.D.), participated in a panel discussion about best practices learned from implementing broadband adoption programs, alongside representatives of municipal programs in Massachusetts and San Francisco. And Dale Merten, chief operating officer of Toledo Telephone Co. (Toledo, Wash.), shared his company’s story of success spurring adoption among seniors in southwestern Washington during a discussion about strategies for a variety of technologies, including DSL and satellite Internet and pay-as-you-go wireless data plans.
The summit was sponsored by the Federal-State Joint Conference on Advanced Services and National Telecommunications and Information Administration and featured speeches from a number of commissioners as well as NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling.
During discussion of challenges facing adoption programs, Merten spoke about how Toledo Telephone overcame obstacles with its outreach to community members. After spending significant resources on direct mail and radio advertising, Merten said the company found that word-of-mouth marketing and grassroots outreach was the most effective way to get community members interested in the free laptops and computer literacy program it was offering.
“Grassroots worked,” Merten said. “In many cases, all it took was a member of my staff knocking on a door and explaining to a grandmother why she should be interested in talking to her grand kids on Skype.”
A number of NTCA member companies were selected to participate in the FCC’s Broadband Adoption Lifeline Pilot Program last year. NTCA coordinated closely with two of those members—Alpine Communications (Elkader, Iowa) and Leaco Rural Telephone Cooperative (Hobbs, N.M.). Additionally, the following NTCA members also received support: Gila River Telecommunications (Chandler, Ariz.); Hopi Telecommunications (Flagstaff, Ariz.); Adams Telephone Co-Operative (Golden, Ill.); Cass Communications (Virginia, Ill.); Madison Telephone Co. (Staunton, Ill.); Mid Century Telephone Cooperative (Fairview, Ill.); Shawnee Telephone Co. (Equality, Ill.); Wabash Telephone Cooperative (Louisville, Ill.); and Vermont Telephone Co. (Springfield, Vt.).
The National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) is the premier association representing more than 580 locally owned and controlled telecommunications cooperatives and commercial companies throughout rural and small-town America. NTCA provides its members with legislative, regulatory and industry representation; meetings; publications; and educational programs; and an array of employee benefit programs. Visit us at www.ntca.org.