Taking part in a Fiber University panel discussion are, from left, Chattanooga EPB’s Katie Espeseth, North Alabama EC General Manager Bruce Purdy, Clayton Dowell, engineering director at Bristol (Tenn.) ES; Tullahoma (Tenn.) UA President/CEO Brian Skelton and Keith Carnahan, president/CEO at Meriwether Lewis EC, Centerville, Tenn.

Nearly 200 TVPPA-member staffers turned out for TVPPA’s inaugural Fiber University symposium, conducted Feb. 5-6 in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

TVPPA Member Services Manager Kari Crouse said the attendance was some six-plus times what she thought the event might draw.

“Our initial expectation was that we might get about 30 people,” said Crouse. “The turnout showed that there’s clearly significant interest all over the Valley in knowing more about fiber.”

Chattanooga EPB Vice President Katie Espeseth surmised that there was a single, simple reason for the oversized turnout.

“People are recognizing that building fiber and providing those services is a big part of the future for their utilities and their communities,” said Espeseth, who presided as Fiber University’s “dean” of sorts.

“So it was really exciting to see all the excitement; these utilities wanting to build this infrastructure. I was encouraged by the response and the sidebar conversations, and now I’d love to know what people think the next steps should be,” Espeseth said.

Crouse explained that the agenda was intended to lay out everything with which an electric utility might have to deal in getting into broadband.

“We tried to create an environment in which our members that aren’t as far down the road with fiber could learn from those who’ve been in fiber for a while,” she said. “Several people told us that Fiber University was the most informational meeting of its type they’d been to in years.”

And Crouse said she’s already hearing from attendees with regard to those next steps.

“People told us they want another Fiber University,” she said. “We’re looking at that right now, as a staff – evaluating our options.”