It is only two years ago that the talk of the MTA’s Annual Convention was the stimulus and last year the buzz was about the broadband plan that was one of the outcomes of the stimulus legislation. This year, talk kept coming back to implementation of the broadband plan. Bill Hegmann, Chairman of NECA, provided an entertaining review of how the plan was developed. He implored the industry to make their voices heard by continuing to work together as the process shifts from plan to implementation.
Both Randy Tyree of OPASTCO and Mike Romano of NTCA discussed some of the near term Notice of Proposed Rule Making that they are responding to, including one that deals with issues that have festered for a long-time, such as phantom traffic. Other near-term NPRMs deal with contributions and the transition to a broadband plan. Our exclusive interviews with Hegmann, Romano and Tyree will air at the hotel channel at IP Possibilities in Kansas City, April 12 to 14.
Slip Sliding Away from Developed Country Status
In his talk at MTA and in our video interview, Romano called the surge in non-completed calls to rural areas, “An epidemic.” NTCA is working with the industry to quantify the scope of the problem. Quantifying the problem is a challenge, as it requires customers to report an issue, which many probably perceive to be a dropped wireless call. In conversations I had with various telcos, this is a real problem and, as Romano indicated, could have serious repercussions if the uncompleted call is to a public safety agency.
One respected engineer, whose company calls many rural telcos everyday as part of their customer support, said the problem has been so bad that his company has had to send emails to their customers requesting that the customer call them. He suggested that the problem has to do with Least Call Routing and the call-signaling end up in some sort of open loop that never closes.
A thread in this enlightening forum suggests that one provider just doesn’t want to pay interconnect fees that reflect the higher costs associated with rural exchanges. It is somewhat ironic, that, while so many smart people are trying to come up with a transition to an all-broadband infrastructure, the voice network, that was the rock of reliability, moves towards chaos.
The Stimulus Kicks In, But What Now
Several people indicated that the stimulus money is starting to flow to their projects or their clients’ projects. It also appears as if the RUS build-out rules have been relaxed somewhat. The 3-year build out requirement will now be based on clock on when the government releases funding, not when they issued the award. This is important, as the timelines for the stimulus projects are generally tight.
The question is what to do after one gets broadband? We have several video interviews, with operators and others, from the MTA show which highlight some creative ways they are driving the use of broadband in rural areas. From rehabilitating old computers to driving tele-work opportunities, rural operators are working with other groups to drive economic development and stronger communities through the use of broadband.