By Alyssa Schnugg
A Rural Broadband Internet bill that will allow electric power associations to provide internet services passed the Senate this morning and will soon be on its way to Gov. Phil Bryant for his signature.
The bill passed through the House last week.
It removed an old law that bans electrical cooperatives, like North East Mississippi Electric Power Association, from offering internet services.
Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley asked local governments to show support for the change over the summer.
A federal bill allocates $600 million for electric cooperatives and rural utilities to bring broadband to rural areas; however, Mississippi cannot receive any of those funds until EPAs can offer internet services.
If signed into law by the Governor, the bill would only abolish the current law. All internet carriers would still be allowed to serve any rural community they choose. It would only now allow electrical cooperatives to offer the service.
Keith Hayward, general manager of North East Mississippi Electric Power Association, said he fully supports the bill.
“We are in support of broadband being available to every single person across Mississippi,” he said. “It’s almost become a utility because of the way things are moving and our members need access. We just need to see if we’re the ones who should provide it.”
Hayward said if the Governor signs the bill into law, NEMEPA will bring in experts to perform feasibility and business studies.
“We have to develop a business model to make sure it’s financially feasible for us where we don’t jeopardize our ratepayers on the electric side,” he said. “We didn’t have those numbers before because the law prevented us from providing the service.”