NRECA is forming a new broadband tier of services to help electric cooperatives navigate the challenges of deploying broadband in the communities they serve.

The broadband tier “is in response to the telecommunications needs of a significant and growing number of our members,” NRECA CEO Jim Matheson said. “NRECA’s mission is to be an advocate for quality of life in the diverse communities our members serve. Increasingly, our members’ missions include providing access to affordable broadband for unserved and underserved Americans as part of that commitment.”

The vision for the broadband tier, based on feedback from dozens of co-op leaders, is to offer additional benefits such as focused relationship-building and lobbying on Capitol Hill and at federal agencies, plus exclusive events and publications and enhanced services and analyses, he said.

“We can provide significant value, specific to broadband and telecommunications, in a variety of specialized ways. Those offerings will be especially strong advocating for federal telecommunications policies that reflect our unique role in closing the digital divide,” Matheson said.

NRECA will work with members to develop strategy and resources in these areas:

• Federal policy and regulatory advocacy

• Communications, events and member education

• Operations and technology support

Membership is voluntary and will carry an additional fee. Any NRECA voting electric co-op exploring broadband service can join for $6,000 per year. Co-ops that are already providing broadband service to consumers can join for $12,000 plus $1 per broadband consumer per year.

Over 200 electric co-ops offer broadband service and another 100 to 200 are studying it. Ultimately, about 400 electric co-ops are expected to enter the broadband space.

“Widespread member engagement will be essential to this new program’s success, just as it was 80 years ago for our electric businesses,” Matheson said. “Those who’ve taken on this challenge know the demands of competitive telecommunications businesses are vastly different from the demands already on electric cooperative businesses. So, too, are the resources needed for NRECA to provide leadership in this new area.

“As electric co-ops enter the competitive market for broadband, they increasingly face well-funded opposition to their efforts in the policymaking arena for telecommunications. We will work together to position NRECA’s effort at a level that effectively and efficiently meets our members’ broadband needs.”

Explore NRECA’s resources on broadband.