By Jeff Wilson
Chief Executive Officer
You often read in this magazine about the many ways West Carolina Tel works with other cooperatives to make your voice heard in D.C. In this issue I’d like to shine a spotlight on the work we do together through the Foundation for Rural Service, or FRS.
FRS was formed in 1994 by NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association as a nonprofit organization. The foundation’s core mission is two-fold: to educate the public about the benefits of a nationwide telecommunications network and to promote rural connectivity as an essential link in this network.
This is accomplished through a variety of programs. One of the most notable is the FRS College Scholarship Program. In the July/August issue of this magazine, we announced that Abbeville High School’s Alexandria Temple not only won the West Carolina Tel scholarship, but also the FRS scholarship. The FRS program awards several $2,000 scholarships to students who are sponsored by their local NTCA member provider, who adds $500 to the award. The program encourages students to return to their rural communities upon completing their education.
Also in the July/August issue you read about McCormick High School’s De’Marcus Moore, who WCTEL sponsored for the FRS Youth Tour. For more than 20 years, we have sponsored a high school senior as part of this program that offers rural students an inside look at the telecommunications industry, educates them about the legislative and governmental process and gives them the opportunity to experience Washington, D.C., in person.
Programs like these are helping us prepare tomorrow’s leaders, the people who will represent rural America in leadership roles. Whether they enter business, education, health care, public service or even the field of telecommunications, these students will have a greater understanding of the challenges and opportunities of our nation’s rural regions.
FRS also works to educate today’s leaders, especially elected officials and regulators. One way the organization does this is through its Rural Telecom Educational Series. Each title in this series of papers provides information on a topic that impacts rural America and access to services for those who live here.
While reading about these topics is important, it is even more powerful to see firsthand the work telecommunications providers are doing in America’s rural regions. FRS coordinates a tour each year that brings congressional staff members to visit communities served by NTCA members. Most of these staffers work for representatives and senators on key committees. It is good for them to hear rural business owners, health care providers, educators and local officials talk about the importance of a broadband connection and to see how important rural providers like WCTEL are to the success of the communities we serve.
FRS sponsors many other initiatives, such as its grant program that supports local efforts to build and sustain a high quality of life in rural America through business development, community development, education and telecommunications.
We are proud of the good work FRS does throughout the country. And we are especially proud to be part of the large family of telcos who support this good work. You can learn more about FRS by visiting www.frs.org.