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Best of 2020 Executive Insights Interviews

Dec. 1, 2020
Some Stellar Quotes to Inspire and Educate — Kristin Karp Presidentand CEO Hotwire Communications Topic: Smart City Collaboration Now and in the coming years, telecommunication providers need to strongly advocate […]

Some Stellar Quotes to Inspire and Educate —

Kristin KarpPresidentand CEOHotwire Communications

Topic: Smart City Collaboration
Now and in the coming years, telecommunication providers need to strongly advocate for the integration of Smart City solutions and the proliferation of fiber optics networks, which will be essential and necessary for the successful widespread adoption of 5G.

This integration will need to be the result of a relationship between telecommunication providers and the communities they serve, one which takes the unique needs of those communities and their residents into account in order to tailor-make an initiative that suits those needs. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t be appropriate, as every community is different, but each plan will have to be built upon the 2-way understanding that a robust fiber network is critical in allowing for the benefits of Smart City technologies to be achieved.

Topic: Inspirational Quote
"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them."  – Walt Disney

Excerpted from the June 2020 issue.
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Twitter @gethotwire

Michael BurkeCEO
Matanuska Telephone Association

Topic: 5G Roadmap
One fact that often gets overlooked on the 5G deployment discussion is the need for robust fiber backhaul to support the data transport that will occur. 5G involves deploying thousands of towers spaced closely together, which means there has to be a lot of fiber connecting each of the towers. MTA’s fiber projects will be necessary to provide any kind of 5G in our area, and we hope to have a strong network that can support any 5G deployments in the near future.

Topic: Failure
You have to embrace failure, since not everything that is attempted will succeed. If you have no failures, then it suggests you are not trying to push for anything new, and a business that is stuck in the past will ultimately become irrelevant. Thomas Edison took 1,000 tries to invent the light bulb, but didn’t regard each action as a failure, but rather part of the learning process to get something accomplished.

Excerpted from the February 2020 issue.
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Bob UdellPresident and CEOConsolidated Communications

Topic: Artificial Intelligence
We have embraced AI as a tool to help us be more efficient, while at the same time making it easier for our customers to do business with us. We currently look at AI as a decision-support tool. We use it to make sure that our customers’ calls are routed appropriately to address their needs.

Also, we’re implementing AI and process automation to handle some of the routine types of activities in our frontline, like seasonal line suspensions and restorals. Automation of processes allows us to spend more time developing custom solutions for our customers.

AI is beginning to play a role in network deployment. Looking into the future, I can see a time where AI does even more of the network engineering for our industry, especially on choosing site locations for fiber hubs and wireless antennas.

Topic: Mentoring
I’m fortunate to be in a position where I currently mentor a few young professionals on an ongoing basis. The advice I give them is simple: Make this world a better place than you found it. That’s my guiding principle. While simple to state, it can apply to everything.

One should follow their passion and use the energy they get from doing so to motivate those around them to achieve great things. Along the way, listen and learn from the best. Treat others as you like to be treated.

Build a network of trusted advisors. Especially in areas in which you feel weak or unskilled.

When it comes to tough conversations, have them. Do it with respect but with an appropriate tone. The worst feeling is knowing you should have had a conversation and didn’t. Most people respect when they are held accountable, and they benefit from constructive feedback.

Excerpted from the May 2020 issue.
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Twitter @CCI4Biz

Shirley BloomfieldCEONTCA–The Rural Broadband Association

Topic: Women in Telecom
I find that women who work on the financial aspects of business have a very good gut for leading on critical business decisions.

At NTCA we launched our Women in Telecom network to allow women leaders to share, support, and compare, career and management advice with one another. I have a similar group of women I work with at GlobalWin, a group I helped organize in D.C. with other female leaders in various tech industries, and we share those same opportunities from a national perspective.

As Eleanor Roosevelt famously said: It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. We all have a role to play in putting out a helping hand to that next generation of leaders. I certainly owe that much to my 2 amazing daughters!  – Shirley Bloomfield on women in telecom.

Topic: Overlooked Issues
Dispel the myth that rural America is disconnected. Yes, we need to connect rural America more than ever, but a significant portion of rural America is already connected, thanks to community-based providers. As community-based entities, their focus is always on serving the area where they themselves live, work, and play, as well as the economics will allow.

What you see is not simply a rural/urban divide, but a divide between rural areas themselves — between those who have lightning-fast broadband speeds in their community of 3,000, and those who perhaps are served (or not served) by some of the larger companies out there who, quite frankly, have shareholder pressure to put their resources into more lucrative markets with larger returns on the investments.

We know where the problem is. Now we just need to incentivize companies, like NTCA members, to be part of the solution by edging out even further to bring service in collaborative ways to these underserved areas outside of their existing current markets.

Excerpted from the March 2020 issue.
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Twitter @sbloomfield15

Jens LaipenieksCEO/General ManagerASTAC (Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative, Inc.)

Topic: Challenges
To understand the challenges ASTAC faces, you must first understand the landscape of the North Slope. Our serving area is immense, over 90,000 square miles, with a population of ~9,500. That is about 10 sq. miles per person. Imagine the landmass of Minnesota, with one dirt road to access a tiny part of it, the rest unreachable by road. The only access to most of the ASTAC communities is by small plane or once-per-year barge service.

The real question is how to deliver affordable high-speed services to our customers. The majority of the North Slope population is not wealthy, with an average income of $47,000-$58,000. The largest businesses are native corporations and the different divisions of the North Slope Borough government.

Everything in the Arctic costs more. Gas, $5.50/ gallon; milk, $10/gallon; travel from Anchorage to the North Slope, $750; intervillage airfare, $400. ASTAC’s cost of operation is greater than anywhere else in the US.

Our field techs work 3-weeks-on/3-weeks-off shifts, 21 ten-hour days with OT built in. ASTAC also provides transportation from Anchorage and room and board. All these factors drive up our cost of service, which are compounded by the very high cost of monopolistic Middle Mile transport (discussed earlier). These are the greatest challenges to delivering truly transformational and affordable broadband speeds to our membership.

Topic: Cultural Transformation
This is a sensitive question for me. About 70% of the population of the North Slope are Alaska Native. Maintaining the strength and respect of the Inupiat culture is critical for ASTAC. Technology and cultural values do not have to be at odds.

Providers like ASTAC have a responsibility to promote and encourage the benefits of broadband, and I’m not talking about just gaming and better streaming service. We are making investments and developing partnerships to enable new opportunities for the Inupiat culture to grow and remain strong.

ASTAC believes in inspiring science and technology leaders of tomorrow. Our support of the NSBSD’s FIRST Lego League (FLL) has helped expand the robotics program from middle school to also include K-4 and high school students. FLL’s objective is to make children and youngsters enthusiastic about science and technology; equip them with the idea of team spirit, and to encourage them to solve complex tasks in a creative way.

Excerpted from the September 2020 issue.
For more information, visit
Twitter @ASTACforAK

Johan GustawssonNetwork Engineering & ArchitectureTelia Carrier

Topic: Capacity Forecasting
The recent dialogue seems to revolve around how networks cope in a fully operational state. This is not typically what they are built for in the first place, thus making for an equally poor metric now for us to utilize.

What is more useful is understanding whether the network can cope during outages, with the most common one being able to handle any single failure. We model and measure this for every hour of the day in 3 different models:

The Retrospective Model provides a historical view of "Traffic at Risk" considering any ongoing failures at the time of the auto-discovered snapshot.

The Reference Model examines the network in a fully operational state and is used to do "what if" scenarios with regards to topology or metric changes, the addition of new devices, and simulating impacts of planned maintenances and other events.

The Forward-Looking Model is essentially a copy of the reference model, but it includes all committed
augmentations to take that into account when adding new capacity to the network (i.e., combining the 2nd model with known upcoming projects).

Utilizing these 3 methodologies, we can immediately identify where new hotspots have emerged should we have failures — measured in the form of "Traffic at Risk" per time period, device, network role, SRG, and/or region. This informs us where we need to build ahead of time, thereby preventing slow speeds or even the dreaded downtime that we all despise as end users.

Excerpted from the August 2020 issue.
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ISE Staff