Notes from the National Rural Telecon Congress

The National Rural Telecon Congress met last week in Mesa, AZ and the meeting was a very interesting gathering of folks discussing how to promote access and use of broadband in rural communities. I have been involved with the Congress for about 10 years and it was good to renew acquaintances with some of the other old-times. Many of the old-timers are affiliated with either land grant colleges or small non-profits. An infusion of new faces also occurred as the Congress made a strong effort to recruit those engaged with broadband mapping; these are mostly state government officials who shared their introductory language of “I have only been in this job for x months.”

The format of the Congress was very participatory. Over the three days, people could choose to join in on discussions on five topics dealing with converged technology, collaborative engagement, governance, anchor institutions and mapping. I was a subject expert in the collaborative engagement group. Our group was the largest to begin with and grew over the two days of discussion.

Key themes emerged – collaboration and messaging were two that rose to the top. We talked both about infrastructure deployment and building demand/community education.

One of the goals at the beginning of the conference was to build a best practices toolkit for rural broadband advocates. By the end of the conference, that goal had been modified to develop a tool that would point people to the various existing toolkits. Some of the toolkits identified as best practice were the Blandin Foundation’s and resources created by E-North Carolina and the State of California.

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