NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, has launched the Smart Rural Communities awards program and initiative, which is actually a rebrand of its "Showcase" awards program and Gig-Capable Provider certification.
The initiative celebrates the small, rural providers helping bridge the digital divide with info superhighway speeds despite challenges of low population, geographic and regulatory hurdles and tight pursestrings.
The initiative has four elements, the 1) "Smart Rural Community Provider" branding; the Gig-Capable Smart Rural Community Provider designation, 3) the Showcase awards and 4) a grant program.
“I am so pleased to launch the redesign of our Smart Rural Communities program. Our members have an established record of providing smart, innovative solutions for our rural communities and we are excited to amplify even more stories of their success," said NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield.
She said that, so far, 69 companies have gotten the Smart Rural Community Showcase Award designation for demonstrating and highlighting "innovative economic development, effective education, efficient energy distribution and use, state-of-the-art health care and other important issues for rural America."
Closing the rural digital divide is a big priority for the FCC, whose chairman, Ajit Pai, is from rural Kansas and knows firsthand the challenge, as well as for the Trump Administration generally. The President has signaled that getting broadband to rural areas is a must for high-tech agriculture, for example.