You wouldn’t believe the amount of news articles, policy briefs, mail (paper and electronic) and other documents that come my way each week. These items remind me just how complicated the telecommunications business has become.
As the leader of your cooperative, it is an important part of my job to stay on top of technology and industry changes. As I do so, it’s easy to start thinking that my job is all about building a network, advocating for fair laws and policies, managing budgets and leading teams. But those are merely tasks. My real job — and, indeed, the real mission of this company — is all about growing communities and changing lives.
There have been a few times in the history of our country that we reached a turning point, a moment where we accomplished something so important as a society that life would never be the same after that. For example, when the rural electrification program lit up the countryside, it helped families automate labor-intensive chores in their homes and on their farms, enabled a healthier standard of living and empowered people to open small businesses that would provide goods and services to their growing communities.
With the interstate highway system, we opened up new parts of the country for development and created a means of moving products made by American workers to markets all over the continent.
And now, here we are in the early part of the 21st century, creating a new kind of system that will have the same level of impact on society as electricity and interstate highways have had for decades. I’m speaking, of course, about today’s broadband network.
In our service area, and in regions like ours across the country, providers such as PRTC are building a network to provide homes and businesses with high-speed data connections — not in the “big city,” but in the small towns and rural communities we call home. And like power and highways, broadband is changing lives. Consider these stories, which are playing out all across rural America:
- A fifth-grade boy sits at a home computer taking remedial classes over a broadband connection, helping him stay current with his class and improve his grades.
- A single mother visits a local campus at night to take broadband-enabled distance learning classes, helping her improve her skills in hopes of landing a better job.
- A clinic runs tests on an elderly woman, then sends the results over broadband to a radiologist at a regional healthcare center to determine if she has suffered a stroke.
- A couple opens a business in their town, filling a need in the community while creating jobs — and they use broadband to connect with suppliers and other resources.
- Emergency responders gather in their training room, using broadband to access new information without losing time and money traveling to numerous training events.
This is what my job is really all about. And I’m reminded every day that our mission here at PRTC is about more than providing today’s most important infrastructure. Our mission really is about changing lives.