This year’s KTA-TTA Fall Conference will be Oct. 16-18 at the Holiday Inn University Plaza and Sloan Convention Center in Bowling Green. Watch the next issue of this newsletter for more information.
Details about applying for new broadband grants and insight into the U.S Department of Agriculture’s efforts to support the telecommunications industry were among the highlights of the annual Tennessee Telecommunications Association annual conference.
“Our members were presented with information on several topics important to our industry,” says Levoy Knowles, executive director of the association. “I appreciate the participation of our guest speakers, our members’ attendance and the support of our sponsors. This was one of our best annual meetings to date.”
Almost 200 people representing the telecommunications industry attended the event, which was held in Franklin.
About 45 vendors also provided members with information about the latest technology and equipment for delivering telecom services to homes and businesses.
During the opening session, Jim Tracy shared about his agency’s work toward “Narrowing the Digital Divide.” A former Tennessee state senator, Tracy was appointed last fall as state director of the USDA Rural Development office. He told conference attendees several grants are available through the USDA that, along with support from the state legislature, are helping deliver broadband to Tennessee’s rural residents.
From the state level, attendees heard reports from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Commissioner Bob Rolfe, along with Assistant Commissioner, Rural Development Amy New, reported on efforts such as the state’s Broadband Ready Communities program, as well as support for site development, asset-based planning and downtown development and revitalization.
One of the more popular sessions discussed the timeline and application process for round two of Tennessee’s Broadband Accessibility Grant. Broadband Grant and Program Manager Crystal Ivey, along with Special Projects Director Amanda Martin, discussed how to apply, the key dates in this year’s program and changes in the application process since the first round.
While conference sessions included information about broad trends, they also focused on best practices for day-to-day tasks and challenges in the industry, including losing an employee, sexual harassment in the workplace and the impact of social media in customer service and marketing.
Photos from the conference can be seen in the gallery below.
Four industry professionals representing telcos from across have been named the 2018 Tennessee Telecommunications Association officers.
“TTA members are working to make high-speed broadband and fiber available to every part of the state,” TTA Executive Director Levoy Knowles said. “This group of officers, led by Mark Patterson, will provide great leadership as they and their fellow TTA members continue to make progress in getting rural Tennessee connected.”
Patterson is president/CEO of Highland Telephone Cooperative and Highland Communications, and will serve as TTA’s board president.
He is joined by Lisa Cope, vice president and CEO of Ben Lomand Connect and Ben Lomand Communications, who will serve as vice president of the board.
CEO of Bledsoe Telephone Cooperative Charlie Boring will be the board’s secretary.
DTC Communications CEO Chris Townson will serve as board treasurer.
The board officers were elected in June at the association’s annual meeting, held in Franklin.
The board members will provide leadership for TTA, which represents 21 companies and cooperatives that provide broadband service to rural areas across the state. Collectively, they provide gig-speed fiber internet to more than 136,000 customers in rural Tennessee communities.
TTA Executive Director Levoy Knowles represented TTA members as a panelist at a Listening Session hosted by the Farm Foundation, NTCA and NRECA among others.
In an agenda that featured U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, Knowles served on a panel along with Mel Coleman, of the North Arkansas Electric Cooperative, and Ken Johnson, administrator of Rural Development’s Rural Utilities Service. The April 18 event was billed by organizers as a gathering of a “coalition of stakeholders committed to the expansion of broadband services in rural America.”
“Broadband is vital to the rural economy in what is now a highly interconnected global marketplace,” said Tom Halverson, CEO of CoBank, which was one of the summit’s hosts. “We need leaders on both sides of the aisle in Washington to work together to facilitate broadband investment and ensure that rural America remains competitive and strong.”
NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield also spoke at the event. “We are excited for the prospects of enhanced cooperation and coordination between USDA, the FCC, and private operators like those in NTCA’s membership — all of whom recognize the value of and critical need for sustainable broadband in rural America,” she said. “NTCA’s nearly 850 members connect many of America’s rural communities to the world with robust broadband, and we are pleased to participate in this collaborative effort to promote better access to rural broadband.”
The next Listening Session will be in June 2018 in Minnesota, with additional sessions to be completed over the next six months.
You can see more photos from the session in the gallery below.
The 2018 TTA Annual Meeting & Conference will be packed with all the information members need to keep them informed and up-to-date on the latest in rural broadband.
The convention, themed “Rural Broadband Committed,” takes place from June 4-6 at the Marriott Cool Springs in Franklin. It kicks off with the TTA Golf Tournament and luncheon at Vanderbilt Legends Golf Course on Monday, June 4. Breakout sessions will take place throughout Tuesday, and the vendor showcase happens on Wednesday.
When the conference starts up Tuesday morning, it will include a speech from Jim Tracy, former Tennessee state senator and current state director of USDA Rural Development, who will discuss “Narrowing the Digital Divide.” In addition, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will address the group remotely.
Throughout the day on Tuesday, industry leaders will facilitate talks on topics such as ECD broadband grants, transition from fiber to 5G networks and backup power. The conference will also include a series of peer breakout sessions for all areas of the industry, from CEOs to those working in field operations, sales and marketing, finance and technology.
On Tuesday night, buses will take convention-goers to Arrington Vineyards for dinner and entertainment in the heart of Nashville’s very own wine country. The vineyard, which is co-owned by country music superstar Kix Brooks, offers award-winning wines and a peaceful retreat.