By Ashley Spinks, Communications Coordinator, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association
February 5, 2018
NTCA member company Nex-Tech (Lenora, Kan.), which serves more than 45 communities across Kansas (most with gigabit speeds), is constantly looking for ways to diversify its business model. Nex-Tech is both a Certified Gig-Capable Provider and a 2013 Smart Rural Community Showcase Award Winner. The company used a 10 Gbps transport network to improve health care in the community of Hays, Kan. Nex-Tech’s network facilitates the rapid transfer of imaging and electronic health records, and gives the cardiac rehab unit of Hays Medical Center full digital connectivity.
In addition to providing communications services to local residents of Kansas, Nex-Tech offers carrier-facing business services. As one of these services, Nex-Tech functions as a trusted third party (TTP) that assists ISPs with complex regulation compliance.
In 1994, the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) passed into law. The law requires that “telecommunications carriers and manufacturers of telecommunications equipment design their equipment, facilities and services to ensure that they have the necessary surveillance capabilities to comply with legal requests for information,” according to the FCC website. Put more simply: If telcos are presented with a subpoena or a warrant, they must be capable of “wiretapping” (intercepting data from) users of their network without detection so that information can be turned over to law enforcement.
The law—originally intended only for telephone traffic—has been expanded twice to include VoIP and broadband internet service. While fairly straightforward in theory, it can be less so in practice, especially for rural broadband carriers. Small telecommunications companies often cannot afford to invest in the necessary equipment for CALEA compliance, nor do they have the resources to train or hire staff who can fulfill the information requests. To address this concern, CALEA allows these smaller telcos to hire TTPs that meet the requisite security requirements and can fulfill requests on behalf of others.
This is the role Nex-Tech fills. Nex-Tech acquired its first CALEA contracts in April 2015, and just last month assumed the contracts of Dobson Technologies, an ISP based in rural Oklahoma. Essentially, “it was a purchase of their customers for the CALEA services only,” Nex-Tech Chief Operations Officer Mike Pollock said. Now, if any of the carriers with which Dobson had contracts receive a valid intercept request, they will contact Nex-Tech to intercept the necessary data and deliver that data to law enforcement officials.
“Nex-Tech is excited about the opportunity to expand its business and serve Dobson Technologies’ customers,” said Jimmy Todd, Nex-Tech’s chief executive officer. “Dobson is the ideal fit for Nex-Tech because we already have a great technical team that provides CALEA services for other telecommunications companies.”
Despite being a rural telecommunications company itself, Nex-Tech is providing essential services to other locally-owned ISPs through its work as a TTP, and hopes to further innovate and diversify in the future.