basis—and only if those matching funds were contributed
by third-party rural interests, rather than the NTCA member.
Accordingly, telehealth initiatives supported by the Smart
Rural Community Collaboration Challenge drew matching
funds from the elder care facilities in which the broadband-enabled technology was deployed. A community college in
Alaska stepped up to support computer literacy classes for
senior citizens, while a group of rural businesses matched monies to support a downtown Wi-Fi network to encourage tourists to
linger longer in shopping districts. Among
Smart Rural Community’s proudest moments
was the execution this past summer of a memorandum of understanding between the U.S.
Veterans Administration and grant recipient
Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative (McKee,
Ky.) (SRC 2014; grant 2017) to support a telehealth pilot program aimed at increasing veterans’ access to Veterans Administration
telehealth and other online services. The
Virtual Living RoomSM, or VALOR, pilot offers a
comfortable, confidential and secure setting at
no cost to veterans, and was developed in consultation with health care professionals.
Spreading the Word
Smart Rural Community has also focused on
providing educational resources to policymakers
and others. Smart Rural Community partnered
with Blue Valley Tele-Communications and
Kansas State University to host a smart ag event.
Smart Rural Community has published research
papers on broadband adoption, telehealth, and
social and economic relationships among rural
and urban regions. These papers have been
presented at public events, followed by panel
and roundtable discussions among academic
experts, practitioners and policymakers. As is
the case with many policy initiatives, the logic
and sensibility of a position may be apparent,
but empirical evidence demonstrating a positive return on investment or tangible benefit is
necessary to trigger policymakers’ support. The
growing library of Smart Rural Community
research demonstrates that the positive qualitative benefits of rural broadband provider efforts
are correlated to positive quantifiable benefits.
“Walking through the process can really help
you identify your strengths and areas where you
could make improvements,” Simmer explained.
Ackerman advised, “Even if you are not pre-
sented with the award, the conversations had
through the process will be invaluable to your
company and your staff. This is more than an award for
your company. This is an award for your community. That
your community has just as good, if not better, broadband
than urban areas is something to be proud of!” l
Joshua Seidemann is vice president of policy for NTCA–The Rural
Broadband Association. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our commitment to serving rural America has never been
stronger. Every day CoBank supports rural communities
with reliable, consistent credit and financial services.
We can be your trusted advisor to offer solutions and
lending strategies if you are considering expanding through
acquisition or construction/upgrade of your network.
We stand ready to partner with you on forward-looking
projects that help rural America stay competitive.
Contact CoBank today.
AMERICA IS GROWING