Electric cooperatives supporting delivery of high-speed internet will have an exclusive opportunity to network with co-op leaders and meet with key decision-makers in policy and regulatory arenas at the first NRECA Broadband Leadership Summit this month.

The conference will be held Nov. 17–18 in Washington, D.C., and will include critical updates on the legislative, economic, political and technological issues impacting broadband deployment in rural America. The summit is exclusively for NRECA Broadband participants.

“Bridging the digital divide is essential to the future of America’s rural communities,” says NRECA CEO Jim Matheson. “As we’ve done for 80 years on the electric side, we want NRECA Broadband to be a strong advocate for electric cooperatives. This requires support from co-ops that are working to deploy broadband as we jumpstart a new conversation on co-op telecom priorities and work to foster stronger relationships between co-ops and Washington policymakers. This conference will be an important starting point for both objectives.”

Well over 200 electric co-ops are in the broadband space, and many others are assessing it. To meet this growing interest, NRECA expanded its services, expertise and resources into telecommunications and launched NRECA Broadband in July.

Participants in this separate fee-based service receive specific federal advocacy, targeted resources, new learning events and focused business and technology support. This inaugural leadership summit is the first of such exclusive services and events.

One session will focus on the recently completed nationwide maps by the Federal Communications Commission showing unserved areas that are eligible for federal grants, such as those from the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program—the largest source of broadband grants from the 2021 federal infrastructure law.

Participants will also learn about regulatory obligations and compliance as well as tax implications and considerations specific to electric co-ops in the broadband business, including those owning or contracting with entities engaged in delivering internet access.

Officials from the Rural Utilities Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture will offer valuable information about federal broadband grant programs. Another major panel of policy experts will discuss USDA’s ReConnect program, which provides hundreds of millions of dollars for rural broadband, and the 2023 Farm Bill.

Telecom policy expert Christopher Ali, in a discussion with Paul Breakman, NRECA’s vice president for cooperative business solutions, will provide an analysis of the promise and the failures of national rural broadband policy and observations for a more sustainable direction. Ali is a Penn State University professor and author of “Farm Fresh Broadband: The Politics of Rural Connectivity.”

Attendees may also participate in a brainstorming session on future priorities and strategies for serving communities lacking high-speed internet.

Learn more about NRECA Broadband.