More than 80 leaders from electric cooperatives and the broadband industry met in Virginia Beach July 27-28 to address broadband service, particularly in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.

The newly formed Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Broadband Cooperatives, the first association of its kind in the U.S., hosted the event.

A panel of CEOs from five electric cooperatives with broadband subsidiaries discussed challenges related to funding, regulations, expectations and workforce. All agreed on the topic of how the pandemic shined a light on the lack of high-speed internet in our rural communities.

Included on the July 27 panel were Mike Keyser, BARC Electric Cooperative and BARC Connects; Casey Logan, Prince George Electric Cooperative and RURALBAND; John C. Lee Jr., Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative and EMPOWER Broadband; Gary Wood, Central Virginia Electric Cooperative and Firefly Fiber Broadband; and Mike Malandro, Choptank Electric Cooperative and Choptank Fiber.

Following the panel discussion, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam made an appearance to voice his support for the work of electric cooperatives and their commitment to bringing broadband service to unserved areas. “It has been through strategic partnerships and innovation that our co-ops are helping connect rural Virginia communities to broadband and the access that Virginians need, and also that they deserve,” said Northam.

The Expo concluded on the morning of July 30 with a VMDABC board meeting.

— Report by Jim Robertson, Staff Writer, VMDAEC

Above Photo: Gov. Ralph Northam addresses the Rural Fiber Expo.