09-18-18 Western E-Connectivity Listening Session Thursday in Denver

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Western E-Connectivity Listening Session Thursday in Denver

DENVER, COLO. Sept. 18, 2018: The E-Connectivity Listening session on Thursday, Sept. 20, is an opportunity for broadband providers and the people who use–or would like to be able to use–broadband to provide input on how to improve services in rural America.
The listening session will be 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. MDT at the Northwest Club Room in the Hall of Education at the National Western Complex, 4655 Humboldt St., Denver. There is no charge to participate. A live webcast will be available for those unable to attend in person.
“Regional and industry leaders will participate in this session, focusing on how broadband services enhance quality of life in rural America, and specifically educational opportunities,” says Farm Foundation President Constance Cullman. “But the critical voices needed in the room are the people who live and work with limited broadband access today. Their voices are needed to build understanding of the impediments generated when broadband services are inadequate or don’t exist, and the challenges these impediments present to individuals and communities.” 
The listening session is part of What’s on the Horizon for E-Connectivity in Rural America, a project organized by Farm Foundation, in collaboration with CoBank, NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“The listening session is an opportunity to highlight the challenges created by the lack of access to adequate broadband services, but we will also look at the approaches providers are taking to deliver high-quality service to rural America–approaches that may be beneficial to other providers,” Cullman says.
The session will begin with a conversation on e-connectivity needs in the West, the impact that broadband services–or the lack thereof–can have on the educational and economic activities of one county or an entire state.  Panelists will be Randy Wheelock, Commissioner for Clear Creek County, Colorado, and Brian Shepherd, Chief Operating Officer of the Colorado Broadband Office.
The tools providers are using to enhance broadband services today will be the topic of a second panel. Participating in that panel will be Brian Tagaban, Director of Governmental Policy at Sacred Wind Communications, Yatahey, N.M., Jon Saunders, Chief Operating Officer of SECOM, a division of the Southeast Colorado Power Association, and David Shipley, Senior Vice President and Chief Operations Officer for USConnect Holdings Inc., and General Manager of Rye and South Park Telephone Company.
Each panel will be followed by an open mic session during which individuals are invited to present brief perspectives on the availability and quality of broadband services in their rural communities. The listening session will conclude with a Washington update by Jannine Miller, Senior Advisor for Rural Infrastructure at USDA.
The Denver event is the fourth in a series of listening sessions to gather insights into the tools that are needed to improve e-connectivity in rural America. Highlights from all the listening sessions will be compiled in a report to be provided to federal and state public and private leaders to better inform their decisions regarding improvements to, and expansion of, broadband services in rural America.
Other sessions were Aug. 16 in Birmingham, Ala. and June 19 in Faribault, Minn. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai joined executives from the five partner organizations in Washington, D.C., to kickoff the listening sessions in April. Perdue and Pai both highlighted the importance of e-connectivity to all sectors of rural America. Discussions from previous sessions are available on the Farm Foundation website.

Mary Thompson, Farm Foundation, 630-601-4152
Kelly Wismer, NTCA, 703-351-2015
Stephen Bell, NRECA, 571-205-7719
Jo Solonika, CoBank, 720-583-9180
Brad Captain, CFC, 800-424-2954
Farm Foundation is an agricultural policy institute cultivating dynamic non-partisan collaboration to meet society’s needs for food, fiber, feed and energy. Since 1933, the Farm Foundation has connected leaders in farming, business, academia, organizations and government through proactive, rigorous debate and objective issue analysis.

CoBank is a national cooperative bank serving vital industries across rural America. The bank provides loans, leases, export financing and other financial services to agribusinesses and rural power, water and communications providers in all 50 states. CoBank is a member of the Farm Credit System, anationwide network of banks and retail lending associations chartered to support the borrowing needs of U.S. agriculture and the nation’s rural economy. In addition to serving its direct retail borrowers, the bank also provides wholesale loans and other financial services to affiliated Farm Credit associations serving approximately 70,000 farmers, ranchers and other rural borrowers in 23 states around the country.

NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association (NTCA)represents nearly 850 independent, community-based telecommunications companies that are leading innovation in
rural and small-town America. NTCA advocates on behalf of its members in the legislative and regulatory arenas, and it provides training and development; publications and industry events; and an array of employee benefit programs. In an era of transformative technological advancements, regulatory challenges and marketplace competition, NTCA members are leading the technological evolution for rural consumers, delivering robust and high-quality services over future-proof networks that make rural communities vibrant places in which to live and do business.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) is the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape. As local businesses built by the consumers they serve, electric cooperatives have meaningful ties to rural America and invest $12 billion annually in their communities.

National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC) is the nonprofit finance cooperative created and owned by America’s Electric Cooperative Network.CFC provides financing to members in 48 states, the District of Columbia & two U.S. territories. CFC also provides services to telecommunications systems that are members of the Rural Telephone Finance Cooperative (RTFC).

And by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)