For the first time, NRTC held its annual meeting online. The today’s meeting also was the first time that NRTC electric and telco members gathered in one session. The most prominent topic of the day was on the many ways that NRTC members have served their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Last year, I reminded members that NRTC was a cooperative that brought together all kinds of networks including the networks that deliver electricity and broadband throughout rural America, but more importantly, was the network of relationships between NRTC, its members and the people you serve each and every day,” said NRTC Board Chairman Shannon Clark, CEO and GM of Richland Electric Cooperative in Wisconsin. “NRTC and each of you supported a world that went from face-to-face meetings, classrooms full of children, staff meetings and more to one that depends on the connections you provide.”
“Pre-COVID I think we took connectivity for granted. Not just broadband connectivity, but connectedness among family and friends, our neighbors and community and our workplace,” said CEO Tim Bryan. During COVID, we realized just how essential this connectedness is … Our members have really stepped up.” He said that members had “a special mission to keep their communities connected” and that helping them fulfill that mission is why NRTC exists.
For its part, NRTC had a disaster plan in place before the pandemic-related office closures began, but never envisioned using it on the scale that would be necessary, Bryan said. Still, it was able to transition more than 350 NRTC Managed Service employees to remote work with in 10 days.
Looking forward, Bryan said that NRTC will build on its 2020 efforts to help electrics and telcos gain funding through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) reverse auction, and will continue the fight – working with NRECA and NTCA – to scrutinize RDOF bidders who had questionable financial and technical qualification.
In the smart-grid arena, Bryan pointed to ongoing AMI projects and expansion of NRTC’s demand-management platform. “Add to that smart car chargers, solar energy, storage and smart water heaters and you’ll conclude we’re doing a lot of smart things for our electric cooperatives,” he said.
Perhaps most importantly, NRTC will concentrate on helping electric cooperatives develop “technology road maps.” The goal is to help members improve the efficiency of their internal communications systems through a new network planning service.
In other annual meeting business, NRTC announced the results of the 2020 board elections, which it also held online for the first time this year.
Bryan and Clark paid tribute to three departing NRTC board members.
- CFC CEO Sheldon Petersen announced his plans to retire last year but will remain on the NRTC board until his successor is chosen, which likely will occur before next year's annual meeting.
- Dale Short is retiring as CEO and GM of Butler Rural Electric Cooperative in Kansas.
- Former Board Chairman Jeff Wilson, CEO and GM of West Carolina Rural Telephone Cooperative in South Carolina served the 12-year limit and an NRTC board member.