April was a busy month for OTELCO in many ways, not the least of which was attention from the media as the pandemic and associated shelter in place orders highlighted the importance of rural broadband expansion. Here’s a round-up of some of the conversations we were involved in.
This week, OTELCO Vice President of Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service, Trevor Jones, spoke to Business Alabama about the surge in Internet usage since the pandemic. According to Jones, “Internet usage has been up by 25 percent since March 16,” with OTELCO customers.
Jones also brought up the increased importance in rural broadband that the virus has highlighted in the past months. Jones noted that COVID-19 has become a “watershed moment” and mentioned how it “really emphasized the need for additional funding and work in these rural areas where people may not have that access available to them at the speed they need.”
On April 16, Jones joined Karem Durdag, President and Chief Operating Officer of GWI, and Andrew Butcher, Director of the Maine Broadband Coalition, on an episode of Maine Calling. During the episode, Jones spoke to the barriers facing Mainers as they try to connect online. “The problem is twofold,” he pointed out to host Jennifer Rooks, “some folks aren’t connected, and others can’t afford to connect.”
The panel examined the effects of these barriers further with AARP Maine State Director Lori Parham. Parham talked about the importance of funding for rural broadband expansion and the broadband bond that will be on the July 14 primary ballot. The bond, or Question 1, will provide $15 million to the ConnectME Authority, which they can use to fund more rural broadband projects in the state.
In another article looking at how to increase rural broadband expansion in Maine, Jones spoke to Mainebiz about how COVID-19 has affected OTELCO. He told the popular business magazine of OTELCO’s 70% jump in customer support calls during the pandemic and how the rise in customer interactions “clearly shows that the pandemic has caused an increase in demand for bandwidth among consumers and that Maine has a persistent low-income homework gap.”
Mainebiz also spoke to John Dougherty, Vice President and General Manager of Mission Broadband, about the organization’s survey aimed at identifying “connectivity gaps in Maine.” Dougherty emphasized that the survey is voluntary and anonymous. The results will be “made available to local communities and state agencies so they can use it in broadband infrastructure planning.” Mainers can click here to take the survey.
In April, OTELCO launched a new podcast called Evolution: Digital. The show, hosted by OTELCO PR and Marketing Manager Tracy Scheckel, explores the ways different industries have adapted to stay relevant in today’s digital marketplace. In each episode, Scheckel interviews professionals from a variety of sectors, including higher education, the theatre, and broadcast media.