By Ric Riddle



If you’ve ever lived in a small town, you know what an RLEC is, even if you don’t know the term. For over a century, rural local exchange carriers (RLECs) have delivered telephone service to residents and businesses in areas of the country that large telecommunications providers don’t serve.

For rural America, the telecommunications industry has undergone a complete transformation during the past two decades. Products and services that are now being marketed to consumers and businesses bear little resemblance to the voice and cable TV services offered 20 years ago.

Moreover, today’s rural telecom users access these services through a wide variety of electronic devices, including computers, smartphones, and other wireless, handheld devices. Another major structural change for RLECs is the intense competition among providers for customers. 

The need to evolve in order to stay relevant – no matter the expense or pain of moving away from legacy systems and processes – is a hallmark of doing business in the digital era. And in recent years, RLECs have begun to recognize that, if digital transformation has been arduous for them, the same is true of their customers.

The Next Evolution

It’s this realization that led 100-year-old northwest Iowa service provider Premier Communications to expand its digital offerings beyond providing Internet service to helping small businesses implement technology in a way that sets them up for success.

The RLEC launched an IT consultation division called Premier Network Solutions, consisting of six consultants who now help more than 50 business customers in their service area achieve and maintain their optimal IT infrastructure. Premier is a full-service extension of their customers’ IT teams, helping them make hosting decisions, architect and manage their infrastructure, train personnel, and even set up and manage cloud backup and disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS).

Often, small businesses in Premier’s service area do not have a deep pool of IT resources in house, so any modernization efforts rely heavily on having a knowledgeable and trustworthy third-party partner like Premier.

Why Rural Small Businesses Need IT Services

Premier and other RLECs who are implementing these services are responding to a few key customer pain points:

1. Increasing reliance on digital resources

It’s difficult to find a business of any size or category today that isn’t reliant on digital software and files to run its everyday operations. Companies don’t have to be particularly high-tech to use CRM databases, accounting software, email, cloud-based file storage, or any of the hundreds of technologies that power small business in the modern age.

Moreover, today’s cyber threat landscape means that even the smallest businesses can be targets for cybercriminals. Software and systems need to remain patched and updated, and security solutions need to be operating properly to ensure cyber threats don’t succeed.

If any of a small business’ technologies stop working – even for an hour – it can mean lost sales and a great deal of lost productivity. Having an RLEC IT partner can ensure that the small business not only has tech support at the ready, but also has someone pro-actively working to ensure their technology doesn’t break or experience breaches or downtime in the first place.

2. Overwhelming complexity of choices

With all these different softwares and technologies in play, architecting a hosting solution can become prohibitively complex for a small business team without IT expertise – especially if they want to get the best possible solution for their money.

It’s no longer about choosing a cloud or bare metal provider. Optimizing a company’s hosting infrastructure today typically means architecting a hybrid multi-cloud system that integrates various vendors and hosting platforms.

RLECs have an opportunity to help customers navigate these decisions so even mom-and-pop shops can benefit from the best of today’s technology and achieve the right mix of performance, features, affordability and reliability.

3. Inefficiency of using multiple vendors for related products and services

If a small business team wants to update their technology or troubleshoot an issue that’s slowing business productivity, it’s extremely inefficient for them to work their way down a list of vendors, trying to find the right person to talk to.

When their RLEC is not only their service provider but also their technology consultation and support team, there is one point of contact for all billing, troubleshooting, updating and training questions.

Codero Is the Provider Behind the Provider

While Premier Communications has a great deal of tech expertise in house, the team works in partnership with Codero to provide hosting solutions and support for its small business customers in Northwest Iowa. We serve as an extension of Premier’s team, just as focused and dedicated to helping the end users as Premier itself is.

If you’re an RLEC looking to expand to IT consultation services this year, let’s talk about partnering with Codero to make the transition easier. 

Evolution is inevitable, for both RLECs and their customers. Partnering with the right team can make digital transformation less of a burden and more of an opportunity for growth, savings, and success.

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