Several organizations representing or serving rural telco and electric/utility providers have launched a campaign aimed at facilitating rural broadband deployment partnerships between telcos, municipals and electrics/utilities in unserved or underserved communities. The campaign, dubbed Partners in Broadband, comes from NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association and several key rural broadband supplier organizations, including National Information Solutions Cooperative (NISC), NRTC and National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corp. (CFC).

Partners in Broadband
The Partners in Broadband website notes that there are many rural areas where local telecom providers have used their “resolve, resourcefulness and a special commitment to community” to make robust and affordable broadband available and goes on to say that “Partners in Broadband wants to help rural utilities and municipals connect with local telecommunications providers to explore ways to deliver the best possible broadband experience that will enrich their communities in new and exciting ways.”

The site includes a form that municipalities and utility infrastructure providers in unserved or underserved communities are invited to complete. “We’ll match you with neighboring telecom companies to talk through the issues, help evaluate options and promote partnerships wherever possible,” the site states.

Broadband Partnership Examples
The site includes three examples of how rural telcos have worked with neighboring utility companies to pursue broadband goals, several of which Telecompetitor has covered previously:

  • A local telco and local utility in rural Indiana merged to form NineStar Connect, which now provides power and broadband services in the community.
  • Consolidated Telephone Cooperative built and operates a network in a community about 200 miles away, where local utility Arrowhead Electric Cooperative resells CTC’s voice and internet services.
  • Utility provider Jackson Energy arranged for a federal agency to provide four-week job training for prospective customer service reps in a part of rural Kentucky with high poverty and high unemployment. Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative provides high-speed broadband to support the training facility.

In a press release about Partners in Broadband, NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield noted NTCA members’ success in bringing broadband to rural America but that millions of rural Americans have limited or even no access to broadband. “[W]e believe we can do better by these Americans by working together with committed partners based in their communities,” Bloomfield said.