A personal digital recorder will record your favorite show while you surf the Internet on your television. Your TV will download selected movie titles from the Internet while you sleep. Traditional long distance phone calls? Might not even exist..

National Rural Technology Cooperative Chief Technology Officer Sherman Ackley is focused on the future. He evaluates telecommunication problems and solutions and considers their application in rural America. Ackley discussed his vision of the future at a recent NRTC board of directors' technology strategy session in Durango, Colorado.

"There is a new paradigm out there," said Ackley. "The Internet is becoming part of television. The entertainment experience is combining with the learning experience. The days of leaving your television to go to your PC are numbered."

Ackley discussed how converging technologies are beginning to--and will continue to--change both consumers' basic experiences and their expectations. "The future is about interactive television and the Internet is how you will interact," he explained.

Companies are forming new partnerships, positioning to offer video, data or combinations of the two. Two-way satellite will debut this fall. EchoStar, Gilat and Microsoft have teamed on a product. DIRECTV will have offerings through Microsoft Ultimate TV and DirecPC. Cable systems are upgrading to digital and exploring data alternatives. AOL has paired with Time Warner. Bell South may launch its own regional satellite.

New allegiances and new products will mean new opportunities for co-ops. "NRTC is evaluating the different ways rural cooperatives can best bring broadband capabilities to their customers. We know that the big winners will be those that provide both television and Internet," Ackley said. "When we search for the right partners for rural co-ops, we consider all the elements: time to market, cost, co-branding opportunities, factors driving consumer decisions. Our goal is to provide viable solutions that meet the short term need but also fit the long term strategy, including ways to bring digital local-into-local to rural Americans."

The future is bright for broadband in rural America. NRTC, as your business partner, will offer the solutions you need to deliver the services your customers will demand. To preview where technology is headed, get a personal digital recorder and have some fun. And stay tuned to Spectrum for future technology updates from NRTC.

Copyright 2000 NRTC, All Rights Reserved, Release 2, Version 2.1

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