Industry leaders collaborate at 2023 Rural Fiber Expo

In mid-September, The Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware Association of Broadband Cooperatives hosted its third annual Rural Fiber Expo at the Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center in Roanoke, Va.

Thomas Lane of Koppers Utility Service speaks on a panel during a breakout session.

Each year, this three-day conference unites broadband industry professionals from across the mid-Atlantic region, all with the mission of extending broadband internet access throughout rural America and closing the digital divide. The Expo and the efforts of VMDABC have propelled Virginia toward establishing itself as a foremost authority in the broadband industry, thereby paving the way for other states to emulate its success.

The conference showcased an extensive vendor exposition, avenues for networking, policy discussions and specialized breakout sessions. It achieved notable success, drawing an attendance of nearly 200 industry professionals and exhibitors, a notable increase from 2022. Presentations and conversation panels were held throughout the conference, discussing topics like underground locates, the energy transition, federal funding, regulations, marketing and more.

Thomas Lane of Koppers Utility Service was pleased with his first Fiber Expo experience as a vendor and panelist.

“My favorite part of the Expo was being able to talk to a large group of people in the exact audience we’re trying to reach,” says Lane.

Among the session panelists and speakers were Virginia Sen. Bill Stanley, Del. Chris Head and Attorney General Jason Miyares, who delivered the keynote address. Co-op leaders from the region also presented, including Casey Logan, VMDABC board chair and Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative and EMPOWER Broadband chief operating officer.

“Attending the Fiber Expo has proven to be an invaluable experience for me every year,” says ogan. “This conference not only showcases the latest technological advancements in the broadband industry, but also reinforces the critical importance of bridging the digital divide in rural America.”

Gary Wood, President and CEO of Central Virginia Electric Cooperative and Firefly Fiber Broadband, also spoke in a panel discussion.

“It’s crucial to collaborate with co-op leaders in our association who share the mission to connect rural America to fast, reliable and affordable broadband,” says Wood. “VMDABC continues to facilitate that through the Rural Fiber Expo.”

By spearheading this innovative initiative, VMDABC is at the forefront of driving broadband deployment and educating about its transformative capabilities. These range from facilitating EV charging and enabling access to vital healthcare services through telemedicine, to fostering economic growth and enabling remote learning, among numerous other benefits.

“VMDABC’s dedication to driving connectivity in rural areas is truly commendable, and events like the Fiber Expo play a pivotal role in championing this mission,” says Logan.

VMDABC, along with its members and associates, will continue to work in collaboration with community organizations, industry leaders, government agencies and other stakeholders to ensure a comprehensive approach toward losing the digital divide and achieving universal access to broadband in rural America.

Save the date: The 2024 Rural Fiber Expo is slated for Sept. 11-13 at The Westin in Annapolis, Md.

–Report by Marin Sanders, Public Affairs Coordinator, VMDAEC.

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