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Transformation is hard. It requires changes to the status quo with a vision for a better outcome.  In rural regions of the United States, there are at least three critical factors to get right to change the status quo in the economics for rural broadband and for content delivery.

The first factor is the funding to make the business case work. The good news is that the U.S. Federal Government is making it easier to bridge the digital divide with $100B in grant dollars available for broadband network infrastructure investments. This makes it easier to fund the last mile in rural areas to reach additional users and to upgrade the network backbone to support increased bandwidth demand.

The second factor is the transformation in networking and content delivery architectures to enable more cost-effective broadband delivery and unprecedented levels of streaming quality. Cisco network infrastructure solutions today are providing rural broadband service providers with more capacity and greater flexibility at a lower cost per subscriber. On top of that, Cisco’s innovations in edge computing combined with the Edge Cloud for Content Delivery platform from our solution partner Qwilt, are the technology underpinnings of this transformative approach to content delivery. Our prior blog described how this joint solution enables service providers to keep up with the ever-growing amount of streaming content demanded from their customers without overwhelming their networks. The solution helps ensure high-quality streaming by bringing content closer to subscribers using edge nodes owned by the service provider and embedded in their networks.

The third factor is transforming the business model of content delivery itself. Late last year, the National Content and Technology and Cooperative (NCTC) and Qwilt announced a joint program to provide rural service providers the opportunity to augment their existing and newly planned broadband services with outstanding streaming experiences for their subscribers – and do so for free. Qualifying broadband service providers who are members or become members of NCTC can upgrade their infrastructure with Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) hardware preconfigured with Qwilt software and services at no cost!

This program is specifically designed for rural service providers and delivered as-a-service to qualifying NCTC members. The compelling aspect of the program is that every NCTC member that deploys this solution is federated together by Qwilt’s cloud service into a unified and distributed national content delivery network (CDN). The implementation makes onboarding for content publishers simple across the entire NCTC CDN footprint, using a single API.  Service providers gain access to a rich portfolio of content producers and can deliver an unprecedented level of quality at scale while maximizing operational efficiency with very little business or financial risk. It also enables service providers to share in new services revenue generated by the federated platform. The outcome of the initiative ensures all members of the value chain – service providers, streaming platforms, and end-users – benefit from higher-quality streaming and a wider variety of content streaming choices, further enhancing subscriber satisfaction.

We are pleased to share the progress we are making to improve streaming quality and delivery economics with service providers in rural areas across the United States. Cisco and Qwilt recently announced that Kinetic by Windstream is deploying our content delivery solution to enable superior streaming performance to its customers, located primarily in rural areas in 18 states. In addition, in just a little over six months, Qwilt and the NCTC have announced over 100 service providers who have joined this program, a significant portion of total NCTC members that can reach up to 34 million households. We are excited by this momentum and anticipate further growth, both in terms of the number of service providers as well as content publishers.

As a rural broadband provider, we encourage you to take a closer look at the Edge Cloud for Content Delivery solution and the opportunity to join the program. Begin transforming your network and subscriber experiences today.