NTCA, ITTA, Telecompetitor: Driving the ‘New Normal’ at BroadbandVision 2014

I spent part of last weekend in New York City visiting a friend in the hospital. My friend and I grew up in the same Midwestern city. She moved to New York for school and decided, somewhat inexplicably, that big city living beats things like fresh air, grass and easy street parking. The hospital was only several blocks away from where she went to grad school, and I joked that in all these years she had not gotten very far. And, as I walked the surrounding area, I was reminded that even in New York, there are communities – each neighborhood has its own flavor, its own distinctive atmosphere, and given the population density, nearly all the resources one could conceivably need for regular daily living.

But, this post is not about ruminations about city living or what I saw outside the hospital – it’s about what I saw inside the hospital, and the amazing things that, curiously, did not amaze me.

Hospitals are filled with lights and sounds – everything from a basic IV drip to advanced medical technology beeps and illuminates, so there is every expectation that a patient’s room can look a little like Mardi Gras with all the blinking lights. The flickers that caught my eye most, however, were the small blue LEDs in the ceiling: the ones set into Cisco WiFi routers. Read more

Despite QRA’s Demise, Uncertainty Still Impacts RLECs

While the FCC’s recent decision to eliminate the Quantile Regression Analysis (QRA) as a means of determining USF support has removed a significant source of uncertainty impacting NTCA member companies, the question of what will take the place of QRA continues to shape their investment decisions.

According to NTCA’s recently released 2013 Broadband/Internet Availability Survey Report, 80% of survey respondents indicated that regulatory uncertainty remains a barrier to fiber deployment, second only to cost (92%).

The overall broadband take rate for survey respondents was 72%. The most popular speed tier offered was 3.0 to 4.0 Mbps, the choice of 34% of responding companies’ customers.

Forty-six percent of respondents serve their broadband customers via digital copper loop, while 29% utilize Fiber to the Home (FTTH) and 12% Fiber to the Node (FTTN).

More than half of all respondents—53%—offer “stand alone” DSL service. Nineteen percent of respondents currently offer Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and an additional 62% plan to do so in the foreseeable future.

Seventy-seven percent of respondents currently offer video, while an additional 2% plan to do so by year-end 2016.

Twenty-seven percent of NTCA’s member companies participated in the annual survey, which was conducted in late 2013.

Ag Broadband Summit Recap and Reflections

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, each American farmer produces enough food and fiber to feed 154 people in the United States and abroad. If that statistic isn’t enough to convince you of the relevance and importance of a strong, healthy agricultural economy, in 2011 agriculture and agriculture-related industries contributed $742.6 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product, a 4.8% share. While the United States may not be as ag-heavy of an economy as when our country was first were founded, the agriculture industry has taken full advantage of broadband-enabled technology to make international food production more efficient, sustainable and affordable.

On Monday, April 14, NTCA member and Smart Rural Community award-winner Blue Valley Tele-Communications, based in Home, Kansas, partnered with Kansas State University (KSU) and NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association to host an Agriculture Broadband Summit. The summit agenda included speakers from KSU’s Beef Cattle Institute, Kansas Fiber Network, Kansas Farm Bureau, and even Don Landoll, the Kansas-born founder and chairman of international equipment manufacturer Landoll Corporation. Speakers provided incredible insight based upon their respective industries—from the impressive technologies emerging in the ag world, to the dangers of security breaches now that an increasing amount of information is available via broadband networks. If you missed the event, be sure to check it out on YouTubeRead more

Survey: NTCA Members Continue to Surmount Obstacles to Provide Wireless Service

Small rural carriers are providing high-quality wireless service to the nation’s hardest-to-serve areas, but must face serious ongoing challenges to do so, according a recently-conducted NTCA survey of its member companies’ wireless operations.

NTCA’s 2013 Wireless Survey Report collects the results of the survey, which was distributed to member companies in the fall of 2013. More than 100 NTCA member companies participated.

Eighty percent of survey respondents provide wireless service to their customers. Of those, 82% offer fixed broadband, 49% mobile voice, 43% mobile broadband and 29% fixed voice service.

Among the challenges cited by survey respondents was obtaining financing for wireless operations, obtaining access to spectrum and competing with nationwide carriers. More than 40% of survey respondents described the process of obtaining financing for their wireless projects as “very difficult” or “virtually impossible.”

Forty-six percent of survey respondents reported utilizing unlicensed spectrum to provide some wireless services, despite interference and line-of-sight problems.

NTCA member companies are rewarded for their efforts by customer loyalty: 41% of survey respondents experience annual customer churn of less than 10%, and 50% reported average churn rates between 10 and 25%, well below the FCC’s most recent estimate of an industry-wide churn rate of 24 to 35% annually.

Smart Rural Surprises

Smart Rural Community buttons(Chicago)  – NTCA recognized seven locally owned broadband providers as supporting “Smart Rural Communities” this morning at its Fall Conference in Chicago. But the takeaway (in my opinion, at least) is not the seven providers who were part of nearly two dozen that submitted applications in a competitive process (though, nor should their accomplishments be overlooked; more on that later). The takeaway was delivered in August when the Smart Rural Community Advisory Committee (SRCAC) convened to review the applications.

The SRCAC is composed of a diverse group that includes not only telecom experts but also representatives from education (as well as rural education, specifically), rural economic development, telemedicine and finance. The intellectual contributions of the SRCAC has broadened the scope of considerations in Smart Rural Community planning. That was represented in part during the review process, in which substantial scoring weight was given to examining how applicant broadband providers had collaborated with local leaders in their respective communities. Read more

ATVA Video Calls for Update of Retrans Consent Rules

The American Television Alliance, which includes NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, formed a number of years ago when telephone, cable, and satellite companies of all sizes saw the dramatic increase of threats of blackouts from broadcasters demanding incredible increases in retransmission consent fees.

In an effort to protect consumers and re-inject market forces into the negotiation process, the ATVA was created to help the FCC and Congress see that outdated retransmission reform rules have not kept pace with changes in technology and the marketplace.

Originally intended to protect localism, the rules now provide broadcasters with the ability to engage in “take it or leave it” tactics that result in cable TV rate increases that far outpace inflation. The ATVA has released a new video to illustrate that the old rules are outdated, and urge consumers to contact Congress in support of reform

‘Who are Three People Who Have Never Used Broadband in My Kitchen?’

Spoiler alert: this post is about the NTCA Smart Rural Community initiative and is intended to encourage members to participate in the awards nomination process; applications are due July 31. SRC-logo (2)

Fans of the 1982-1993 television series “Cheers” may remember an episode in which barfly know-it-all Cliff Clavin secures a spot on Jeopardy. In the final round, Cliff squanders a nearly $20,000 lead when he writes a technically correct, yet unsatisfactory question to the Final Jeopardy challenge of “Archibald Leach, Bernard Schwartz and Lucille LeSuerer,” asking, “Who are three people who have never been in my kitchen?” (If you can find the clip, it’s worth a look.)

Several months ago, I confessed a sense of discomfort when I blog about various developments in the tech world or market trends because I am never quite sure whether I am simply sharing information of which readers are already aware. So, technically, it’s “news” – to me. Whether it’s news to readers is another matter, but I always bank on the average that the information might be fresh to at least a few. Read more

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