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In what they say is a first, five electric cooperatives in three states have formed an association of broadband co-ops aimed at bolstering services in underserved rural areas.

The Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Broadband Cooperatives (VMDABC) is structurally modeled after existing cooperative associations. VMDABC will offer classes of membership based on types of co-op members and their goals. VMDABC classes of membership will include co-op affiliates offering retail fiber, co-ops pursuing middle mile or “backbone” fiber, other broadband entities and vendors.

The five class A founders are Prince George Electric Cooperative; BARC Electric Cooperative (and subsidiary BARC CONNECTS); Central Virginia Electric Cooperative (and subsidiary Firefly Fiber Broadband); Choptank Electric Cooperative (and subsidiary Choptank Fiber LLC) and Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative.

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Founding members of the new association all are in various stages of creating fiber-to-the-home networks. The association will provide management and technical support to members through a management services agreement and will have separate legislative representation in the Maryland and Virginia legislatures. (story continues below)

The creation of the broadband co-op comes 76 years after the founding of the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives. “We are hoping and intending for this broadband association to help bring unserved areas in our three states into the digital age, much as our electric cooperative members brought their communities into the electric age in the 1930s and ’40s,” VMDAEC President and CEO Richard G. Johnstone Jr. said in the press release about the new association.

VMDAEC members have been active in their own rights. For instance, last November, The Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative was awarded $1.5 million to deploy an FTTP network connecting rural Brunswick and Halifax counties in Virginia. The network could potentially serve as many as 1,964 people, 34 businesses, 27 farms, a fire station and two post offices.

The Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative and Prince George Electric Cooperative were among 21 rural electric cooperatives that won $186 million in a joint bid in the Connect America Fund II auction.

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