NTCA Educates Rural Providers

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ISE Magazine Supports the NTCA Technology + Business Conference —

Every day, small rural broadband providers work hard to deliver vital broadband services that spur innovations in business, education, agriculture, community, and telehealth. Their steadfast commitment to serving the communities they call home makes them rural America’s trusted solution providers.

NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, advocates for them. This association of nearly 850 members works to build a better broadband future for those providers and their customers.

Early this spring, The NTCA Technology + Business Conference, formerly IP Vision Conference & Expo, connected the rural telecom industry’s leading technologists and business executives to discuss the latest developments in rural broadband deployment, and how rural carriers can maximize new revenue opportunities. The event included general sessions, and smaller sessions called Peering Points — a series of concurrent sessions dedicated to showing where other telcos are finding successes.

General Sessions

The event opened with Joe Candido, co-founder of the Executive Crash Course Company and founder of Fifth Element Associates, presenting insights into Tomorrow’s Telco Technologies. He said the rural market is bifurcating, with the residential market stagnant or slowing while the rural business market is largely untapped and growing. Candido urged rural providers to take advantage of this underserved market and to provide technology and solutions needed to grow their customers’ businesses. He explained several key areas of opportunity:
• Infrastructure: Network as a Service, Security, and TCP/IP, Datacenter: Cloud, Collaboration
• Insight: IoT, Big Data Analytics
• Mobility: 5G
• Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

Seth Arndorfer (l) Justin Huebner (r)

Balancing Business and Technology — The second session featured 2 rural providers. Seth Arndorfer, CEO of Dakota Carrier Network, and Justin Huebner, Assistant General Manager of Solarus, shared insights into technology projects they each spearheaded. The overall theme was that business is changing, and rural providers need to dig in and look at what their customers really want. Progressive leaders in this area must create products that truly service their clients and also create internal efficiencies for themselves.

FirstNet in 2019 — The final session was a Q&A between Edward Parkinson, acting CEO of FirstNet Authority, and Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA. Bloomfield began by addressing the giant elephant in the room: FirstNet’s provider partner AT&T. AT&T has a 25-year contract with FirstNet; the company is charged with being the bridge for a public private partnership between rural providers. While the company currently has 20+ rural partners working with them, the goal is to expand that reach over the next 18 months. Also at this final session was Carrie Johnson, AT&T Director, Strategy & Policy, Tribal Affairs Specialist, FirstNet Program. She discussed how AT&T’s objective is to align with partners and end users to expand FirstNet’s infrastructure.

Peering Points

Attendees had the opportunity to attend a series of concurrent sessions dedicated to showing how other telcos are succeeding in new and emerging areas. These sessions, Peering Points, were organized into 3 tracks: Business-to-Business, Business-to-Consumer, and Central Office.

Solutions eXchange

Also available during the event was the Solutions eXchange, where attendees networked and consulted with vendors to help them seek solutions to meet consumer demands.

4 Noteworthy Presentations

Small operator panel

Small operator panel (l to r): Robert Engel, Traci Geiss, Roger Hixson, and Robert Sherry.

Small Operator Considerations for NG911 — This panel discussion about the current 911 ecosystem outlined specific steps small providers should be taking to prepare for the transition to Next Generation 911. Robert Bengel of Vantage Point moderated the panel that featured these speakers: Tracer Giess, Nex-Tech; Roger Hixson, National Emergency Number Association (NENA); Robert Sherry, West Systems. They shared elements of The Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council’s VI Final Report, focusing on how the FCC can assist originating service providers, and providing advice on what carriers should do to be prepared to deliver their 911 traffic in an NG911 compatible manner. (The full report is available to download from the FCC website at https://www.fcc.gov/about-fcc/advisory-committees/communications-security-reliability-and-interoperability-council. The paper is also on the NTCA events app under conference schedule; to get the app, just download “NTCA Events” in the app store.)

Can We Stop Robocalls? Scott Sobolewski, Innovative Systems, provided insight into how rural providers can implement effective nuisance blocking at both the network and end user levels. Said Sobolewski: “According to the YouMail Robocall Index, there were more than 4.9 billion automatic calls placed in February of 2019!” He also discussed these tools for use at the network level: STIR (Secure Telephony Identity Revisited)-SHAKEN (Secure Handling of Asserted information using toKENs), Trunk Group challenge and Global Blocked List. He shared several successful case studies from providers and consumer initiatives.

Peering Into Your Future — Peering (v.) is a process by which 2 Internet networks connect and exchange traffic. This panel shared details on public peering, impacts for providers and users, network considerations, and bandwidth offloading data. Benefits were described by the several panelists that included: Michael Boyle, Westin Building Exchange; Pritam Kerkar, Range Companies, parent company of Advanced Communications Technology (ACT); Dave Martin, Blackfoot Communications; and Mike Rushing, Westin Building Exchange.

A Rural Provider’s Perspective on Open Source Networking — Ron Isom, Open Networking Foundation (ONF); Dave Martin, Blackfoot Communications; and Brian Ford, NTCA; all provided insight into the open source movement across the telecom industry.

Solutions Exchange Forum

Solutions Exchange Forum

Solutions Exchange Forum

Solutions Exchange Forum

Solutions Exchange Forum

Solutions Exchange Forum

Wrapping It Up

Given the significant challenges facing rural providers, educational events like this help spur creativity, improve peer networking, and showcase technological solutions to help bridge the Digital Divide.

For more information about NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, please visit https://www.ntca.org/.

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About Author

Janice Oliva is President and Assistant Editor for ISE magazine and ISE EXPO. Email: joliva@isemag.com

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