From the Top

Smart Rural Communities and a Promise Fulfilled

By Christian Hamaker, Editor

Over the summer, my wife and I drove our four kids from Virginia to Colorado, where we stayed for 10 days in what we were told would be a "cabin" just outside of the popular winter ski area and tourist destination of Breckenridge. The cabin turned out to be a luxury vacation home—more of a mini-mansion with a wood exterior. It was both rustic and opulent, with all the modern conveniences and then some.

There was just one thing missing from the mountaintop community: high-speed internet. We’d been warned by the home’s owner that he didn’t have landline internet and that the cellular service, while available, was a bit flaky. We managed to cobble together a hot spot via one of our tablets, but that generated a very weak Wi-Fi signal—and only if the device could find a connection to the cellular network.

Maybe a landline connection would have been more robust, but a graffiti-decorated sign at the subdivision entrance told us that our family wasn’t alone in our perceived disappointment about high-speed access in the community. The sign, which promised "High-Speed Internet Is Here!" had an emphatic, spray-painted "No!" next to those words.

The lesson, it would seem, is not to promise something that you aren’t delivering—at least as experienced by the people who actually want and need access to what you’ve promised them. Discontent and anger follow quickly on the perception of broken promises.

NTCA’s Smart Rural Community (SRC) program just celebrated its fifth anniversary, and it delivers what it promises: extraordinary achievements in promoting rural broadband networks and their broadband-enabled applications in rural communities. Telcos are awarded based on their ability to demonstrate the use of these technologies through innovative economic development, education, health care, government services, safety and security, and more efficient energy distribution and use.

Our cover story (see p. 18) revisits some past SRC Showcase Award winners while showing how far the program has come since its early days. And with 13 Showcase Award winners in 2017, the program is growing—another testament to rural telecom providers, their robust networks and the innovative applications those networks enable.

That’s good news for the country and for its rural residents, so take a moment to read about the program and its newest batch of winners. It’s all worth celebrating.