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The “Best Of” ISE EXPO's Keynote and Tech Talk Interviews

Aug. 1, 2022
Read the BEST OF quotes, insights and priorities from our ISE EXPO 2022 Keynote and Tech Talk Interviews.

Take What You Want and ATTEND for the Rest

Our segment of the telecom industry is only as good as the internal and external teams we create and nurture.

Read about this predicament and other challenges they face from their original interviews featured in the June and July issues of ISE Magazine.

Then, be sure to attend these stellar leaders’ presentations at ISE EXPO 2022. Visit for complete details.

"Tired of hearing from leaders who don't really get what you do? ISE EXPO 2022 brings you execs who not only get it, but they’re also DOING what you do and living to tell about it."

Keynote Presenter

Ken Paker, SVP of Information and Network Technologies and Chief Technology Officer, TDS Telecom

Topic: Passion

We are passionate about taking costs out of fiber-to-the-home builds. The more we can reduce costs, the more fiber expansion we can accomplish. The construction parts of our business are ripe for digital transformation, but it is not going to look like the transformations in the other parts of our business. Labor costs do not transform the way electronics or software can. 

Construction is a block-by-block activity and the permutations of how to be successful are enormous. It is going to take image recognition technology coupled with superior project management expertise to truly achieve a transformed state.

Topic: Priorities

Our top priority is to scale up our fiber builds. We continue to innovate, identifying ways to reduce build costs allowing us to expand our fiber footprint to over a million service addresses in the next five years. Our intent is to drive fiber deeper into the wireline network—wherever and whenever we can make it economically viable, contributing to our efforts to help bridge the digital divide. We would like to reach 2.2 million total service addresses across our traditional ILEC, CLEC, and cable networks with about 60% being fiber and 80% capable of 1Gig or faster speeds.

Another network priority is legacy voice switch replacement. Since TDS Telecom has traditionally grown by acquisition, we have a large variety of extremely old switching systems. These switches are getting harder and harder to maintain and are well past their expected equipment lives.

Topic: Supply Chain Constraints

Supply chain is the bane of our existence in 2022. Who would have thought that this would become a household word for every business and consumer! Traditionally, we have spent a lot of time and effort, both as a company and as an industry, on getting very good at just-in-time inventory. Today, in essence, it is the exact opposite. How do we build up inventory to ensure certainty of delivery?

Increasing inventory is our first big work effort. This started with CPE but very quickly morphed to also include network and construction equipment. Of course, success relies on vendors being able to accurately forecast their delivery times. Knowing how to match our forecasted needs with vendor lead times requires a level of rigor that is somewhat daunting. Any missteps could cause drastic business impacts such as shutting down customer installations or suspending construction projects. As a result, we have been heavily weighting our decisions toward oversubscription of inventory rather than too little. We view this approach as a temporary phenomenon and, hopefully, we will return to just-in-time inventory management.

ISE EXPO Tech Talk Presenters

Kevin McDorman, Vice President, Customer Care, AT&T

Topic: Network Sustainability

We know 5G and other broadband connectivity can help businesses reach their climate goals. And by 2035, we aim to enable a gigaton of emissions reductions through connectivity solutions for our business customers. 

We are progressing toward this goal with our Connected Climate Initiative (CCI), which convenes leading technology companies, AT&T business customers, universities and environmental nonprofits to deliver 5G and other broadband-enabled climate solutions at global scale.

Topic: The Great Relearning Trend

We invest about $200 million a year in internal training programs—providing about 16 million hours of training a year—and over $24 million annually on tuition assistance.

For us, the reskilling effort is about transparency and empowerment—creating tools and processes that help empower our employees to take control of their own development and their own careers.

A great example is the development of some innovative online tools we provide to help our employees navigate their options and take control of their learning and development. Our Personal Learning Experience (PLE) tool is a single place employees can go to plan, access, view, manage and track learning.

Topic: Energy

Thinking more broadly from the context of my team, imagine a world with no constraints. No limiting factor of time or budget. If energy is free, we have unlimited resources at our disposal. In this world, technologies and capabilities rapidly enhance, unlocking the art of possible for people everywhere. Friction in service no longer exists and we achieve instantaneous operating capacity. Data systems have iterated and transformed to a point where insights are known as they are occurring.

Zooming back into my team, we would leverage this velocity of data and process to effortlessly identify opportunities and solve with agility.

Troy Johnson, Vice President of Network Engineering, Consolidated Communications, Inc.

Topic: Your Passion

I am most passionate about our customers’ experience with the products we offer. Network uptime, speed-to-delivery, and reliability of services can define customer satisfaction levels. We have to take the minor concerns raised by customers seriously. As small issues accumulate, customers’ impression of their provider worsens exponentially. The more we can proactively monitor and react to network issues, in addition to adding redundancy to our product deliveries, the better the experience will be. The hard part is balancing the cost associated with network additions and enhancements, but I think the business case for focusing on the customer experiences is strong.

Topic: Greatest Challenges

A challenge we face in network evolution is simply the demand for real-time supplies to get ahead of and meet the demand for our expanding capacity and growing build needs. Supply chain issues are real, and our teams have had to be extremely proactive in the acquisition of supplies and in ensuring we have strong partnerships with our vendors in order to best meet our objectives while working around always-changing inventories and timing.

Topic: Network Sustainability

This is a major focus for Consolidated as we work to continue serving our community and ensure better stewardship of our environment. Consolidated is undertaking a more formalized study of its own emissions footprint, beginning by establishing a baseline for our Scope 2 emissions in 2022.

We’ve begun evaluating LED lighting upgrades and a range of other energy conservation measures to improve efficiency and drive further operational emission reductions.

This year, we announced our first two long-term solar agreements in Maine and Minnesota, respectively. The decades-long commitments directly address climate change by increasing the number of clean power sources available, thereby “greening the grids” in our local communities.

We are also developing and acting upon a long-term voice product strategy plan, a major part of which involves the decommissioning of power-hungry legacy TDM equipment.

Joshua Seidemann, Vice President Policy, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association

Topic: Greatest Challenges

Speaking from the rural perspective, a prevailing roadblock is ensuring sufficient capital to build-out networks in sparsely populated rural areas. We find a way, blending private capital with the right Federal programs, but it is a more challenging scenario than one would find when there are more customers per facility mile over which to spread the costs. Another challenge: the immediate term, labor, and supply shortages. Unemployment rates are at 50% lows and there is a shortage of skilled workers just as Congress has created a remarkable funding opportunity. In time, the labor crunch will resolve. For now, patience, ingenuity, creativity, and commitment to get past these roadblocks will be necessary.

Topic: Priorities

We have reached an inflection point at which there is a greater recognition of the role broadband plays in our lives. But developing the right policies often requires a rigorous cost/benefit analysis, and it is important to get the data in front of people in a way that resonates and without boring them. Anecdotal evidence to support policy is very helpful, but ultimately empirical proof claims the day. My approach is “numbers and narrative”—find the data to support the case, then demonstrate how it works in a real-world situation.

Topic: The Great Relearning Trend

Leaders should be the first to stand and say, “I don’t know it all”. None of us can. The world is too vast, it is moving too quickly, but we can master the art of the pivot. If the goal of a leader is to see beyond the status quo and to recognize the skills and abilities of each person in the organization, then the leader should be the first to inspire others to find opportunities to hone their skills. When the individuals perform better, the team does better. This can include tuition offsets or permitting some type of flex or comp time for employees pursuing relevant training or continuing education. Coordinated properly, this can create a thriving, smart and driven work environment. 

Ben Goth, Vice President of Network Services, TDS Telecom

Topic: Your Passion

We are passionate about driving change to deliver fiber to as many customers as possible. We are striving for changes and process refinements at every level in the fiber ecosystem to make enabling as many customer connections as possible faster. Solutions developed and commonly used in high density fiber builds do little to help enable customers in less dense areas with fiber. The designs and traditional build methods must be changed to reduce complexity and decrease the cost and time to implement fiber solutions. We must repeatedly look at every step in the process, questioning how it is done and why it is required to find opportunities for efficiencies.

Topic: Priorities

The biggest challenge is finding the best resources to complete the right projects. We have worked to find the appropriate construction and engineering partners to do the necessary work. As our designs and build methods change, we must determine where we can move to using different partners with specialized skills to accelerate and complete builds. Conversely, if you choose a partner that doesn’t work out, you lose time and money as well as the competitive advantage in a market.

Topic: Network Sustainability

TDS Telecom, along with its corporate parent and sister companies, is actively working on ways to use less energy to perform the same tasks, which will help reduce costs, reduce carbon emissions, and reduce risks.

Topic: The Great Relearning Trend

The tight labor market is forcing companies to be even more creative in retaining and retraining workers. Associates need to feel like there is an avenue to advance in their companies or they may look elsewhere. TDS Telecom recently increased its education assistance program to cover 100% tuition reimbursement. We are also increasing and expanding associate participation in what we call “TDS University” where selected employees have the opportunity for a three-year rotation in various positions around the company.

Attend ISE EXPO 2022 to hear more from these 5 brilliant executives. Visit for all the details and to register.

About the Author

Sharon Vollman | Editor-in-Chief, ISE Magazine

Sharon Vollman is Editor-in-Chief of ISE Magazine. She oversees the strategic direction and content for ISE Magazine. She also leads the educational content development for ISE EXPO. Vollman has created educational partnerships with the major communications and entertainment providers including AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, Frontier Communications and Cincinnati Bell. She has covered the telecom industry since 1996. Prior to that, she worked in advertising with Ogilvy & Mather and CME. Vollman has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Advertising from the University of Iowa.