Wisconsin-based rural telco Solarus has the distinction of being both an NTCA Smart Rural Community and a provider of gigabit broadband service. Solarus is a customer-owned company that has provided telephone service for over 100 years but in recent years has transformed itself into a provider of broadband, digital video and other services.
Solarus received the Smart Rural Community designation last month. The company was one of 13 rural service providers recognized in 2014 as Smart Rural Communities by NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association.
The NTCA kicked off the Smart Rural Community program in 2012 at a time when the topic of the “smart city” was getting a lot of attention. The association felt it was important for rural communities to not be left behind as the smart city idea began to become reality. NTCA defines a Smart Rural Community as one that promotes “access to next-generation applications and platforms.” Platforms could include distance learning, telehealth, public safety, security and others, the NTCA said.
The Solarus Gigabit Network
Solarus says it received the Smart Rural Community designation, in part, because of its gigabit service rollout, announced earlier this year. The company invested more than $50 million to bring gigabit service to its service area to “help create an exciting future for the communities we serve,” the company said in an internal memorandum shared with Telecompetitor. Other reasons Solarus says it was designated a Smart Rural Community include:
- A partnership with Boys & Girls Club created in January 2014 aims to “allow the club to offer more learning experiences so all children can learn, play and connect” on a “robust” ultra-high-speed network. In addition to installing gigabit broadband in the club in mid-2014, Solarus also provided all of the wiring to enable the club to be a completely wireless facility.
- Investment in broadband-enabled products including home and business monitoring, hosted IP and advanced video services.
At the BroadbandVision conference in Las Vegas earlier this month, NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield noted that communities that have been recognized as Smart Rural Communities have heartily embraced the idea. For example she noted that highway signs saying “You are entering a Smart Rural Community” have been very popular.