While this year’s venue for Fiber Connect looked a little different, the quality education and energy was as electric as ever.
At the first-ever Virtual Fiber Connect 2020, attendees had access to 31 sessions, more than 100 speakers and hours of content all from the comfort of their own home. From discussions about private-public partnerships and funding to basic network deployment and design, the huge scope of topics covered gave everyone something to think about—especially in a year that has underscored the importance of fiber broadband.
During the conference’s opening remarks, Fiber Broadband Association Chairman of the Board Katie Espeseth said while this year has offered many challenges, the association and its members rose to the occasion.
“We’ve seen a number of challenges over the past year, but those challenges certainly highlighted how important our mission has become in accelerating fiber optic networks,” she said. “Who would’ve thought that our industry would be front and center in solving a number of problems we wouldn’t have even imagined a short while ago?”
FBA President and CEO Gary Bolton said recent association research shows that during the pandemic, the quality of broadband was extremely important. As of this year, more than 50 million homes were passed with fiber-to-the-home, and 88% of the fiber CapEx investment in 2020 came from small service providers.
As the need for quality, high-speed broadband grows, Bolton said the Fiber Broadband Association will be there for those building out networks.
“With change comes opportunity, and for our industry, fiber deployment and broadband could not be more important,” he said. “Communities of all sizes need fiber for economic development and jobs.”
Moving into 2021, Bolton said the association will continue to provide important content and resources for its members. In the New Year, people will continue to work and learn from home. And as a new administration takes over the White House and the FCC, Bolton said the Fiber Broadband Association is working overtime to ensure the interest of its members are at the forefront of policy decisions. He added that the quality content at this year’s Virtual Fiber Connect reflected that goal.
“I’m really excited about the content of this year’s program, given the mission we all share to accelerate broadband deployment,” he said.
FBA also named its two award winners during the opening session. United Cooperative Services received the Star Award, which recognizes an individual, group or company that is going above and beyond to provide fiber-to-the-home in their service area. The electric co-op serves members in 14 counties in North Texas. Espeseth said United Cooperative Services went “above and beyond” to ensure connectivity for its members.
“Eighty-seven percent of their members had little or no access to high speed broadband,” she said. “Now, all of their members will be able to choose a competitively priced high-speed internet option.”
Joseph Jones of OnTrac was named the Photon Award winner, which recognizes an individual, group or company that has made significant volunteer contributions in the fiber industry. Jones served as the Virtual Fiber Connect 2020 programming chair and has served in numerous committee leadership role at the association over the past decade. JJ was also recently elected to the Fiber Broadband Association Board at the Premier Members meeting earlier this month.
“He’s humble, hardworking, dedicated and success oriented,” Espeseth said.
Attendees will have access to the virtual conference’s recorded sessions and content until mid-January, as well as access to the virtual exhibit hall.