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Rural Service Providers Discuss Business Models for Broadband Solutions

Tue, April 28, 2020

Rural communities face a complex set of challenges when it comes to closing the digital divide, according to three broadband providers who participated in BroadbandUSA’s April webinar. To serve the needs of rural customers, providers must develop innovative business models, partnership strategies, and technological solutions to serve their customers. In the webinar, the three providers discussed how their differing business models have all built strong local relationships and allowed them to meet community needs.

Justin Forde, Senior Director of Government Relations at Midco, said that leveraging different technological solutions enables them to serve their 400,000 Internet, cable television, and phone customers in the upper-Midwest. Midco has used connectivity solutions including fiber to the home, fiber and coaxial hybrid, and fixed-wireless. Currently, Midco is working on implementing Midco Edge Out, a program to build fiber wireline solutions to rural customers, which utilizes state broadband funds. Forde indicated that partnerships with local and state leaders have been an integral part of the program’s success.

Prince George Electric Cooperative (PGEC), an electric cooperative serving southeastern Virginia, serves mainly rural farming communities in southeastern Virginia. Local leaders understand the importance of broadband for achieving sustainable economic development goals in addition to improving quality of life. Renee Chapline, Vice President of Communications and Government Affairs at PGEC, said that this understanding has led to the successful public-private partnership approach that PGEC has employed when working in the communities it serves.

Telephone Electronics Corporation (TEC) operates a regional competitive local exchange carrier in Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. James Garner, Vice President of Operations for TEC, explained that broadband is a journey. The deployment of broadband does not guarantee broadband adoption and use, especially in rural communities. A key component in increasing growth of subscribers has been to find ways to offer affordable services, such as leveraging supplemental funding from government programs. TEC has formed partnerships with local government and community leaders, allowing them access to this type of funding.

What unites these approaches is an understanding of the unique needs of communities, the providers agreed. Successful broadband planning means thinking beyond a one-size-fits-all solution.

BroadbandUSA hosts monthly webinars on a variety of broadband topics. BroadbandUSA has an archive of its webinars on our website. Follow us on Twitter @NTIAgov to receive updates on NTIA and BroadbandUSA’s work.