Connecting you to the future

Keith Gabbard

Chief Executive Officer

It has been almost 30 years since our imaginations were captured by the movie “Back to the Future.” One of the reasons it became the top-grossing film of 1985 is that we as humans are fascinated with the idea of seeing what the future holds.

Keith Gabbard

Keith Gabbard

Spend a few minutes online searching for news articles covering the recent Consumer Electronic Show (CES), and you will start to get a fairly clear picture of the future. The show is billed as “the world’s gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies.”

Josh Seidemann is director of policy for our national trade group, NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association. He attended CES and kept rural telcos informed about what he saw. “You cannot leave CES without the growing sense that beginning now we are becoming increasingly connected to machines that measure, analyze and interpret our data,” wrote Seidemann at ntca.org/new-edge. “So, if I had to describe what impressed me the most, it would not be any particular product — rather, it is the proliferation of connected devices and how normal their use will become.”

Even if we’d had a time-traveling DeLorean, it would have been difficult to predict all this connectivity. In the early days of the Internet, even the tech leaders were short-sighted. Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3Com and inventor of Ethernet technology, wrote in a magazine column in 1995 that “I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.”

I think it’s safe to say, 17 years later, that the Internet is here to stay.

When we first rolled out Internet service in this region, no one could have foreseen the level of connectedness we are seeing today. Already, many households have simple devices they can control with their smartphones or tablets, including security cameras and lighting controls. But change is coming fast. Think about some of these products displayed at CES, and how you might use them in your home:

  • An infant sleep monitor that fits into a chest pocket of a baby’s clothing, tracking breathing, temperature and even how the baby is positioned, sending all this information to your mobile device
  • A simple heart monitor you can wear comfortably that will send your electrocardiogram to your smartphone and to a physician to monitor your heart remotely
  • A tiny device you can wear that will record information about your movement and activities, then display the information in an app

All this talk of the future emphasizes an important point. As your telecommunications company, we don’t know what’s coming — but through the network we are building, we are committed to equipping you to fully participate in all the future has to offer.

I think Seidemann said it best: “Sure, we could live without all the technology, but you could also hike down to the creek with a washboard to launder your old socks. Fact is, we expect electricity, we expect water, we expect broadband.” I couldn’t agree more.

Building our future’s foundation

By Keith Gabbard
Chief Executive Officer

Can you imagine life without electricity? Of course not. It helps you take care of your home and family, earn a living, get your news, enjoy entertainment and experience a better quality of life. Wait … can’t the same be said for broadband?

Keith Gabbard

Keith Gabbard

I draw that parallel to drive home an important point — the broadband network we are building today is as foundational to modern society as the electricity distribution system that began powering rural America in the 1930s and 1940s.

Do you remember the first time you logged on to the Internet? Maybe it was through a PRTC Internet account. Perhaps you dialed a toll-free number, or even paid long-distance charges, to connect to EarthLink or AOL (how many CDs did you receive in the mail over the years offering 10 free hours of service to try AOL?). As you listened to the whistles and pops of your modem making a dial-up connection, you could not have imagined a day when such a network connection would impact practically every part of your life.

But that day is here. As dial-up access gave way to broadband connections, technology drove innovations that go far beyond simply browsing the Internet. And just like in the early days of electrification, rural America is benefiting greatly.

Consider these examples of how people are using their broadband connections:

  • Students are staying current with their studies when they miss class, and turning in their homework online.
  • Teachers and professors are bringing advanced studies into their classrooms through distance learning.
  • Clinics and hospitals are managing records and expediting test results in ways that help them control costs while improving patient care and convenience.
  • Businesses are selling products and services, buying supplies and communicating in ways that help them compete with companies in larger markets.
  • Local governments, fire departments, police forces, water providers and other agencies are saving money on training while offering greater access and improved services to citizens.

Our network is making stories like these possible. And it’s not just PRTC. Providers like us across rural America are creating real solutions as we lead the way for a more advanced telecommunications network in our country.

If these stories are not enough to convince you that we truly are building the foundation for our future, look at the story “Wireless Needs Wires” on Page 6. With so many people connected by cell phone these days and the use of traditional landlines on the decline, you might be tempted to think of your local telecommunications company as a provider whose most relevant days are behind them. But as you see from this article, even the cell phone service people are so attached to depends heavily on the wired network that we continue to improve. It wouldn’t work without us.

Broadband is indeed the infrastructure of the future – one we are building for you today.