As opportunities and challenges multiply in rural internet access, electric cooperative leaders are looking to the NRECA Broadband Leadership Summit for key resources and insights.

This third annual summit will take place in Washington, D.C., from June 12 to 14. Registration opens April 4 and is a complimentary benefit for NRECA Broadband participating cooperatives.

For the first time, NRECA Broadband will host NIST National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence Director Cherilyn Pascoe to provide an overview of the updated Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF 2.0), which was released in February. A cybersecurity risk management plan that reflects this latest framework is a requirement of the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program.

As in previous summits, officials from the Federal Communications Commission have been invited to discuss agency priorities and initiatives that impact rural broadband. Drawing on feedback from attendees, the 2024 event will emphasize opportunities to raise issues with federal policymakers, make connections with co-op broadband leaders, and get the latest on cyber, legal, tax and technology topics related to telecommunications businesses.

“The summit is a fantastic opportunity for co-op leaders to not only get together and exchange ideas and best practices, it’s also an opportunity to tell our story to policymakers in Washington,” said Cliff Johnson, director of NRECA Broadband. “The summit is a meeting where you can get things done.”

“I came back with a lot of things that were actionable” from the 2023 event, said Sachin Gupta, director of government business and economic development at Centranet, the broadband subsidiary of Stillwater, Oklahoma-based Central Rural Electric Cooperative.

Federal officials not only spoke at the 2023 event but made themselves available to attendees. Gupta said he was able to “raise an immediate concern and get an immediate resolution. Face-to-face conversations accelerated it.”

The conference also will include briefings on policy developments on Capitol Hill and transportation arrangements for participants to meet with their members of Congress.

Jason Bragg, vice president of government relations at Georgia EMC, said last year’s Hill visits gave co-ops “an opportunity to focus solely on broadband and deliver really good news on some really great progress.”

Congressional staffs are accustomed to hearing from big telcos, but these meetings allowed co-ops to “personally discuss the unique challenges that they've had as a new entrant in the market, especially a new entrant that's serving areas that were previously unserved,” Bragg said.

Kevin Curtin, senior vice president of government relations at the Tucker-based Georgia statewide association, said his participation at the summit was “eye-opening.”

“It was a good use of time for us to hear directly from the policymakers themselves, not filtered through anybody else,” Curtin said. “And they got to hear directly from us as well as to what our concerns and our perspectives are. It was a great two-way conversation.”

Allison Saffle, chief financial officer at Lancaster, Ohio-based South Central Power, said she and her CEO, Richard Lemonds, strengthened existing bonds with their members of Congress “specifically about broadband issues” during the summit and picked up “very valuable” information from sessions and networking.

Breakout sessions this year include deep dives into legal issues surrounding broadband deployment with attorneys from Keller and Heckman LLP. Ty Thompson, NRECA vice president and deputy general counsel, and Bill Miller, a tax expert from Bolinger, Segars, Gilbert & Moss, LLP, will discuss tax issues related to the broadband business.

NRECA Vice President of Integrated Grid Venkat Banunarayanan will present use cases for communication infrastructure to enable grid modernization and technology integration.

Sachin said that although Centranet has deployed broadband to its entire membership, NRECA Broadband and its annual conference provide valuable opportunities to learn and collaborate.

“Eventually we will run into very specific tactical problems as we start building our own middle mile infrastructure,” he said. “When we get there, we will find out that all of these contacts in NRECA Broadband are great resources to call and say, ‘Hey, how did you guys do this?’”

NRECA Broadband is positioning co-ops as a crucial force in rural broadband. Visit to learn more and sign up.