4-County Electric looking at offering broadband internet

The area's largest electric power association does not have a timetable on deciding whether to offer broadband internet to its customers, but 4-County Electric Power Association is looking into providing the service.

Posted: Feb 29, 2020 7:07 AM

LOWNDES COUNTY, Miss. (WTVA) — The area's largest electric power association does not have a timetable on deciding whether to offer broadband internet to its customers, but 4-County Electric Power Association is looking into providing the service.

The non-profit utility said in a news release it conducted three feasibility studies and will soon meet with the consultants behind those studies.

"It’s a chance to make sure all our assumptions are what they need to be, that the details are correct so we are looking at as realistic a model as is possible,” said 4-County chief executive officer and general manager Brian Clark.

According to Clark, his EPA could spend more than $110 million to offer internet service, which would be its most expensive project in its more than 80 year history. 

And that cost is a concern.

“Despite what some folks would say, this project is not a guaranteed success," added Clark. "It is very important that we do everything we can to make sure that if we move forward, we put as little risk on 4-County and our members as is possible."

Clark did indicate the project would be more favorable for 4-County if it could get the federal government to cover 10 to 15 percent of the cost. 

The EPA plans to pursue that cash for rural broadband being offered by the Federal Communications Commission in an October auction.

Clark also did not rule out 4-County entering a partnership with an existing internet provider.

4-County's most recent comments on broadband internet is of interest since other local EPAs have already agreed to get into the internet business.

That move was triggered by a change in state law and encouraged by Mississippi Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley.

For example, Lee County-based Tombigbee Electric is already building its broadband network and is heavily promoting the project to its members.

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