PRTC reaches for the future, now

By Noble Sprayberry

Twenty-five seconds. With PRTC’s gigabit-speed Internet connection, that’s all it takes to download a two-hour, high-definition movie.

That task in most communities might require an hour — or hours. And that’s just one example of the possibilities gigabit broadband offers.

Simply put, gigabit Internet is a foundation for today, and for the future: Real-time video conferencing. Cloud-based backups. Workers miles — or continents — apart collaborating as if they’re steps away. And that’s the infrastructure PRTC members have right now.

NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association has named PRTC as one of the first Certified Gig-Capable Providers, out of the association’s nearly 900 member telecommunications companies.

The certification is an acknowledgement of the power of high-speed Internet. And the power of that network — more so than the designation — means good things for community growth, says Keith Gabbard, PRTC’s chief executive officer.

For example, Teleworks USA in Jackson County trains people for jobs that allow them to work for national companies outside the region without ever leaving home. Other employers have also shown interest in locating call centers in the area served by PRTC, Gabbard says.

“In discussions with these companies, one of the first things they ask is if we’re capable of high-speed broadband,” Gabbard says. “And we can say that we are, and prove it to them.”

Keith Gabbard, PRTC’s chief executive officer, discusses the importance of rural broadband.

Keith Gabbard, PRTC’s chief executive officer, discusses the importance of rural broadband.

Necessary for growth

Sooner than many people might expect, gigabit Internet access will become a necessity for communities. “The world is begging for gigabit fiber right now,” Gabbard says.

The NTCA distinction is part of a national program highlighting independent telecommunications providers delivering gigabit broadband speeds.

“I applaud each one of these companies for their commitment to delivering the Internet’s fastest speeds — an accomplishment worthy of much praise considering the unique and challenging circumstances small, community-based telecommunications providers operate under every day in serving some of our country’s most rural and remote communities,” says NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield.

Industry giant Google recently announced it might bring its gigabit fiber Internet service to Louisville. And it’s already brought the gig to select cities such as Kansas City, Missouri, and Austin, Texas. However, Google fiber — as well as offerings from other companies — does not cover every household in a city. The initial rollouts are limited. “But, PRTC committed to extending fiber optic broadband Internet to every home and business in Jackson and Owsley counties,” Gabbard says. “We have it right here.”

And employers are going to notice. “We’re proving to them what we can do here, and hopefully they will tell other people,” Gabbard says. “We’re happy to be gig-certified, and we’re even more proud to provide our community access to the future that broadband Internet provides.”

PRTC joins an elite group, including NineStar Connect, Greenfield, Indiana; Wilkes Communications, Wilkesboro, North Carolina; Polar Communications, Park River, North Dakota; SkyLine Membership Corporation, West Jefferson, North Carolina; Omnitel Communications, Nora Springs, Iowa; Premier Communications, Sioux Center, Iowa; West Wisconsin Telcom Cooperative, Downsville, Wisconsin; and Dickey Rural Networks, Ellendale, North Dakota.