Utility regulator seeks to let cooperatives offer internet

A Mississippi utility regulator is continuing his push to change state law to allow rural electric cooperative to provide high speed internet service.

Posted: Jul 1, 2018 11:32 PM

HAMILTON, Ala. (AP) — A Mississippi utility regulator is continuing his push to change state law to allow rural electric cooperative to provide high speed internet service.

Local news outlets report Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley traveled to Alabama last week with 46 Mississippi lawmakers and representatives of more than a dozen Mississippi electrical cooperatives. They were visiting Tombigbee Electric Cooperative of Hamilton, Alabama, to learn about the utility's work in providing broadband service.

"Fourteen miles east of the Mississippi line, some of the fastest internet speeds in the US at some of the cheapest prices are being offered, in some of the most rural parts of Alabama. If they can do it in Alabama, we can do it in Mississippi," Presley, a Democrat who represents the northern third of the state, tells WCBI-TV.

Tombigbee CEO Steve Foshee says the cooperative is spending $38 million over time to offer fast fiber-optic service to more than 70,000 residents. The cooperative began offering dialup service in 2000 and relied on a combination of private loans and a $3 million government grant for a pilot program that now serves 400 customers.

Foshee said the cooperative created Tombigbee Communications because large private providers shy away from the most rural areas. He likened the work to cooperatives' original mission of extending electrical service beyond towns.

"That was what we were created for to start with, a quality of life issue," Foshee said. "Our people need opportunity, they need jobs, income. We all need to work together to make this happen and cooperatives are the perfect model to make this happen."

Mississippi law currently bans electrical cooperatives from offering internet service, but Presley, a Democrat representing the state's northern district, says he expects lawmakers to consider dropping that ban in 2019.

"That has to be changed by the legislature first and foremost, and I think it will," said Rep Steve Holland, a Plantersville Democrat. "Beyond that we've got to sell the co-ops on it. It's going to be a heavy investment on the co-ops."

Presley said a federal bill allocates $600 million for electric cooperatives and rural utilities to bring broadband to rural areas.

Jason Siefried, CEO of Taylorsville-based Southern Pine Electric, tells the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal that farmers served by his Mississippi cooperative could benefit.

"If a farmer can monitor a chicken coop remotely, it just increases the opportunities he has to keep bad things from happening like losing a houseful of chickens due to fans not working properly," Siegfried said.

Foshee said fiber service costs $49.95 monthly for 100 megabytes and $79.95 monthly for 1 gigabyte in residential areas.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 16769

Reported Deaths: 803
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds110426
Madison77829
Lauderdale76569
Neshoba73945
Jones70933
Scott66312
Forrest60039
DeSoto59310
Rankin4639
Leake45512
Holmes44431
Copiah3344
Jackson31415
Attala31218
Yazoo2985
Newton2924
Oktibbeha28314
Leflore28238
Lincoln28131
Wayne2803
Monroe26925
Harrison2687
Lamar2525
Lowndes2529
Pearl River21231
Pike20411
Adams20416
Warren19910
Washington1998
Lee1978
Noxubee1956
Covington1832
Bolivar16911
Jasper1684
Clarke15619
Smith15611
Lafayette1564
Kemper15611
Chickasaw14314
Coahoma1324
Clay1254
Winston1241
Carroll11911
Marion1169
Claiborne1165
Yalobusha1116
Grenada1104
Lawrence1071
Simpson1050
Sunflower963
Tate931
Hancock9012
Marshall893
Union897
Itawamba897
Webster885
Panola873
Wilkinson859
Montgomery841
Jefferson Davis823
Tippah7611
Calhoun684
Walthall670
Amite651
Humphreys647
Tunica583
Prentiss533
Choctaw522
Perry513
Pontotoc493
Jefferson421
Tishomingo360
Stone320
Quitman320
Tallahatchie311
Greene301
George302
Franklin292
Alcorn191
Benton140
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 19387

Reported Deaths: 676
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2341123
Jefferson1927105
Montgomery190544
Tuscaloosa85316
Marshall7149
Franklin5939
Lee56334
Shelby53619
Tallapoosa43566
Butler43121
Walker3973
Elmore38110
Chambers36326
Madison3594
Unassigned3144
Morgan3141
Baldwin2969
Dallas2963
Lowndes26912
Etowah26512
DeKalb2603
Autauga2485
Coffee2401
Sumter2369
Houston2275
Pike2231
Bullock2197
Colbert1972
Hale19210
Russell1870
Barbour1831
Marengo1796
Lauderdale1752
Calhoun1693
Cullman1631
Wilcox1587
Choctaw15310
Clarke1492
St. Clair1372
Randolph1288
Dale1250
Marion12511
Talladega1215
Pickens1215
Limestone1100
Chilton1081
Greene955
Macon944
Winston920
Jackson863
Henry842
Covington831
Crenshaw803
Escambia793
Bibb761
Washington746
Blount641
Lawrence510
Monroe492
Geneva450
Perry430
Conecuh421
Coosa401
Cherokee383
Clay282
Lamar280
Fayette160
Cleburne151
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