BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.
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36 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2017 INDUSTRY ANALYSIS N o "one-size-fits-all" approach will address the needs of rural consumers and businesses yearning for better, more affordable connections. But, as someone who has spent a career focusing on rural infrastructure needs and community development, I want to shine a spotlight on one promising approach that could yield real benefits in terms of connectivity and contribute to the vitality of the rural United States. In rural areas where larger carriers have shown little incentive or ability to deploy robust broadband networks, one of the best solutions available is in partnerships between electric cooperatives and small rural telecom providers – two groups that share a commitment to the rural United States, have complementary strengths and are well positioned to make rural broadband a success. ere are many rural parts of the United States where robust broadband is already available – and these are often served by small, hometown telecom providers. In fact, almost 49 percent of their customers already have access to fiber-to-the-home networks, and nearly three-quarters have access to speeds the Federal Communications Commission considers "table stakes" for broadband. But the broadband landscape in other rural areas is bleaker. Particularly where larger telecom carriers have not had an incentive to invest, rural broadband access lags far behind what's available in either urban markets or the rural areas that smaller telcos serve. I look at this problem, and I see opportunities for rural consumers and businesses, for electric cooperatives, for the smaller telcos and for anyone willing to be creative and collaborative in overcoming challenges. CHALLENGES FOR ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES Electric cooperatives serve many rural areas that have inadequate broadband access. ey have deep experience deploying infrastructure in rural areas, and some are already deploying and managing telecom networks. Many of their members would like to see them take an active role in providing broadband. However, entry into the retail broadband business is hardly easy. Even where robust broadband doesn't exist, there's often a large incumbent with lots of resources and decades of experience – the kind that, faced with competition, might find a way to Partnership for Rural Broadband Together, electric co-ops and small rural telcos have what it takes to bring advanced broadband to underserved rural areas. By Hilda Legg / Broadband Communities Learn more about rural broadband successes and challenges at the Broad B and Communities s ummit , May 1–4, 2017, in Dallas.