Wednesday, Aug 8, 2018 
Contact: Brittany Carter 334-240-7107

Rural broadband services are focus of Aug. 16
E-connectivity Listening Session in Birmingham, Ala.

BIRMINGHAM, ALA. Aug. 8, 2018: How broadband services can enhance the quality of life in rural America, including its economic health, will be the focus of an E-Connectivity Listening Session on Thursday, Aug. 16 in Birmingham, Ala.

Regional and industry leaders, as well as rural broadband users are expected to participate in this session, which will be in Room 340-342 of the Alabama Center for Advanced Technology and Training on the campus of Lawson State Community College, 3060 Wilson Road SW, Birmingham.

The session is part of What’s on the Horizon for E-Connectivity in Rural America, a project organized by Farm Foundation, in collaboration with CoBank, NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The session will be 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. There is no charge for this event, but reservations are requested by close of business Monday, Aug. 13. Reservations can be made by sending an e-mail to

For those unable to attend in person, a free live webcast will be available. Webcast participants will have the option to ask questions during the session.

“In this listening session, we want to focus on options to address the specific challenges rural residents encounter in accessing consistent, quality broadband services,” says Farm Foundation President Constance Cullman. “We will hear from regional experts, but an important element of the session will be hearing from the people who live and work with limited broadband access today.”

Cullman will moderate the Birmingham session which will begin with a panel that includes Anshu Vaish, CEO of Robin Health, Macon, Ga., and Brandon Moore of Moore Farms, Toney, Ala. This panel will be followed by an open mic session, in which individuals are invited to present brief perspectives on the availability and quality of broadband services in rural communities, and the impact that service has on quality of life in the region.

A second panel will feature broadband providers discussing specific challenges and opportunities for improving e-connectivity in the region. Panelists will be Fred Johnson, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative, Rainsville, Ala.; Jake Cowen, Chief Financial Officer of Troy Cable in Troy, Ala.; and Steve Foshee, President/CEO of Tombigbee Electric Cooperative, Hamilton, Ala. A second open mic session will follow this panel.

The Aug. 16 session will conclude with an update from Washington, D.C., by Jannine Miller, Senior Advisor for Rural Infrastructure at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Birmingham event is the third regional listening session. These sessions are designed to gather specific input from broadband providers and the people who use—or would like to be able to use—broadband services regarding the tools that are needed to improve e-connectivity in rural America. A fourth session will be Sept. 20 in Colorado. A report of those sessions will be provided to federal and state public and private leaders to better inform their decisions regarding improvements to, and expansion of, broadband services in rural America.

The second session was June 19 in Fairbault, Minn. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai joined executives from the five partner organizations April 18 in Washington, D.C., to kick off the listening sessions. Perdue and Pai both highlighted the importance of e-connectivity to all sectors of rural America.

Mary Thompson, Farm Foundation, 630-601-4152
Kelly Wismer, NTCA, 703-351-2015
Stephen Bell, NRECA, 571-205-7719
Jo Solonika, CoBank, 720-583-9180
Brad Captain, CFC, 800-424-2954

Farm Foundation is an agricultural policy institute cultivating dynamic non-partisan collaboration to meet society's needs for food, fiber, feed and energy. Since 1933, the Farm Foundation has connected leaders in farming, business, academia, organizations and government through proactive, rigorous debate and objective issue analysis.

CoBank is a national cooperative bank serving vital industries across rural America. The bank provides loans, leases, export financing and other financial services to agribusinesses and rural power, water and communications providers in all 50 states. CoBank is a member of the Farm Credit System, a nationwide network of banks and retail lending associations chartered to support the borrowing needs of U.S. agriculture and the nation's rural economy. In addition to serving its direct retail borrowers, the bank also provides wholesale loans and other financial services to affiliated Farm Credit associations serving approximately 70,000 farmers, ranchers and other rural borrowers in 23 states around the country.

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association (NTCA) represents nearly 850 independent, community-based telecommunications companies that are leading innovation in rural and small-town America. NTCA advocates on behalf of its members in the legislative and regulatory arenas, and it provides training and development; publications and industry events; and an array of employee benefit programs. In an era of transformative technological advancements, regulatory challenges and marketplace competition, NTCA members are leading the technological evolution for rural consumers, delivering robust and high-quality services over future-proof networks that make rural communities vibrant places in which to live and do business.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) is the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape. As local businesses built by the consumers they serve, electric cooperatives have meaningful ties to rural America and invest $12 billion annually in their communities.

National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC) is the nonprofit finance cooperative created and owned by America’s Electric Cooperative Network. CFC provides financing to members in 48 states, the District of Columbia and two U.S. territories. CFC also provides services to telecommunications systems that are members of the Rural Telephone Finance Cooperative (RTFC).