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At the moment, the biggest trend to report from here in the US is social distancing and “flattening the curve” of coronavirus cases. Social distancing can be difficult and isolating, but good broadband (and a Netflix subscription) really takes the edge off. The team at VETRO FiberMap is committed to ensuring that our customers have everything they need to operate while the coronavirus is in full swing, so it’s business as usual from our home offices. One thing we can’t do, however, is attend our usual stack of trade shows. Yet, while time does seem to disappear these days, it was just a few weeks ago that our team exhibited at TechAdvantage in the legendary city of New Orleans. VETRO FiberMap CEO Will Mitchell attended along with Stewart Linsmith and Nick Roy from our sales team, and they picked up on a few noteworthy trends in the electric cooperative world. 

TechAdvantage
Stewart Linsmith (left) and Nick Roy (right).

First up? Teamwork. Electric cooperatives are tied to their membership footprint, and in many cases have been serving up electricity to their customers for 30, 50 or even 100 years. Since there’s no competition for territory, we were excited to see how much collaboration and cooperation is happening among coops right now.

Electric coops from across the country are looking to each other for best practices, appropriate technologies and tools, engineering and design partners, and references for the resources needed to diversify into the fiber broadband space. This human-driven peer-to-peer network is helping create momentum for broadband projects in this industry.  

Many electric coops moving into broadband are finding success through forming new, independent business entities that can either be operated from within or outsourced to a management partner. Though the poles and wires look alike from afar, fiber optic networking is fundamentally different from electrical architecture, and fiber to the home in turn is different from smart grid fiber deployment.  This translates to a need for specialized FTTH design expertise, and an openness to adopt fiber management systems that differ from but complement electric grid GIS and mapping systems. New subsidiaries and new partners adopting new systems is becoming reality as coops become ISPs to serve their communities with better internet.

The FCC’s Rural Development Opportunity Fund (RDOF) is having a hand in this momentum too. The RDOF grant program’s goal is to fund the construction of high speed broadband to rural homes and businesses, a goal more pertinent than ever as communities with quarantines or that have experienced economic pressures can gain massive benefits from affordable, broadband-enabled access to healthcare, education, employment and social activities. Rural communities that have implemented these projects have already seen direct and tangible benefits to their local economies—quality fiber based internet service is a catalyst.

TechAdvantage
View from the TechAdvantage reception at the National WWII Museum.

Though the coronavirus pandemic was not a big topic at the trade show, just a few weeks later it is dominating everything. As the entire world shifts toward remote or distributed work and online methods of community and commerce, the Opportunity in RDOF has never been more clear. Every home needs to be connected, and America’s Rural Electric Coops are going to be major players in providing broadband to these underserved areas in the next few years.

TechAdvantage 2020 highlighted some great ground-level insight into this industry segment. We’re excited to support our electric coop customers and their engineering and design firms as they help buoy socioeconomic vibrance and reduce the homework gap and digital divide across the United States. Amidst the changes Americans have seen in recent years, electric coops are finding refreshing ways to invest in the country’s future.   

Is your company considering RDOF funding, or are you working on a new fiber optic infrastructure project? Reach out to our team of experts at VETRO FiberMap for a no-pressure discussion around how a quality fiber management platform adds fundamental value and efficiency at 207.221.6627 ext 2, join us for our next webinar, or dig into our blog for more content like this.

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