Bringing Congress to Rural America

By Nancy J. White
Chief Executive Officer

It’s not often that rural telcos like ours get a chance to share our stories, struggles and successes with a busload of congressional staff members.

So when the Foundation for Rural Service recently brought a group of legislative advisors on a bus tour through East Kentucky and Middle Tennessee, we at NCTC made the best of the opportunity.

These bright, young staffers — most of whom work for representatives and senators on key commerce, technology and communications committees — left Washington, D.C., to visit our part of the country and see what rural broadband looks like firsthand.

The staffers came from across the country, representing places such as Salt Lake City, the Dallas suburbs, Central Florida and the Research Triangle in North Carolina. Before moving to the nation’s capital, many of them lived in big cities, such as Chicago. For some, this bus trip may have been the first time they’d ever visited a rural area like ours.

While in Lafayette, they toured the NCTC data center, the city’s technology park and Macon County General Hospital. They met with some of our local officials. At one stop on the tour, we explained to a few of the staffers the impact our mission has on local residents. We wanted them to see how vibrant our communities are and to meet the great people in our area. We wanted them to hear rural businesses owners, hospital administrators and local officials talk about the importance of a broadband connection.

It’s critical for congressional leaders to understand the challenges cooperatives like ours face in building a network that may cost tens of thousands of dollars each mile, with as few as five customers per mile.
The tour was a great chance to tell them our cooperative’s story: We are providing service in areas that for-profit companies will not serve, and local residents depend on our network to work, play, shop, learn and connect with friends and family. I am proud NCTC could play a role in bringing the congressional delegation to rural Tennessee and Kentucky.

There is much to be excited about as a member of NCTC. As you may recall, we were designated a Smart Rural Community last year. This year, we were named a “Gig-Capable Provider” by NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association. This means NCTC is certified as being able to deliver Internet connection speeds of up to 1 Gbps — that’s 1,000 Mbps. The “Gig” speed you keep hearing about that is coming from the big providers … that impressive service that Google will deliver to Nashville in the future … it is available in many parts of NCTC’s service area today.

Much of that is possible thanks to the broadband stimulus project your cooperative has been working on for three-plus years. I am proud to report that we have completed this progressive construction project — on time and on budget — and that we are delivering advanced telecommunications services across the new fiber optics network.

To hear more good news about your cooperative and the great things happening in our connected communities, please attend our annual meeting on Saturday, Nov. 7, at the Macon County Junior High School. Entertainment begins at noon, and the business meeting starts at 1 p.m. We hope to see you there!