Cooperatives are exceptional

KeithGabbard-CEO-HeadshotBy Keith Gabbard
Chief Executive Officer

Every month or two a news story will appear that looks at the so-called “digital divide” between big cities and rural areas like ours. This narrative paints a picture that rural Americans have a more difficult time getting reliable Internet access through broadband.

While statistics may back up that idea in some parts of the country, I’m proud to say our area is the exception thanks to this cooperative.

In some of the recent numbers I’ve seen from the FCC, there is a stark contrast between broadband access in rural America and in big cities, if taken as a whole.
As you’ve read in these pages before, the FCC has redefined broadband as Internet speeds of at least 25 Mbps. Based on that threshold, 94 percent of urban residents have broadband access, compared to only 55 percent of people in rural America.
Sitting in an office in New York or Los Angeles, it would be easy to see those numbers and think rural America has been left behind in today’s technology-driven, connected world.
But that’

s not the case here in our part of Eastern Kentucky.
We’re happy to offer speeds well above those thresholds to our customers, and we’re pleased to bring those connections to everyone across the service area.

We are proud to be the exception to those numbers because it means we’re serving our customers. But we’re also proud to be exceptional because it means our founders were right about banding together to create PRTC.
Cooperatives like ours were founded by local residents who knew a reliable communications network was important and were willing to join together to bring such a network to our area.

The statistics clearly show that corporate America is not meeting the needs of rural communities like ours. Companies focused on pleasing stockholders don’t see enough profit in our region to invest in building a network.

That’s where cooperatives like PRTC come in. We answer to our customers, who are member-owners of the cooperative.

October is National Cooperative Month, which is a great time to think about our business model and how it benefits families and businesses in our area.
In a news release from the USDA published in July, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said “Broadband is fundamental to expanding economic opportunity and job creation in rural areas, and it is as vital to rural America’s future today as electricity was when USDA began bringing power to rural America 80 years ago.”

Sec. Vilsack is correct. Without access to broadband, our community would be at a disadvantage. And without PRTC our area wouldn’t have such access.
Please join us in October (and throughout the year) in celebrating what our founders created and all the advantages we enjoy today because of their vision and dedication to their communities.