Jackson, MS – January 30, 2019 – House Bill 366, which enables electric cooperatives in Mississippi to offer broadband services to their membership, has passed the House and Senate and Governor Bryant has signed it to put it into law. The hope of the bill is to be able to provide much needed broadband to the “last mile” customers, which are those customers typically not served by current providers.
Eddie Howard, CEO of ACE Power stated, “This is a bill that ACE has been behind since day one. We understand that there are members of our service area that do not have access to any type of broadband internet. This bill enables us to study whether or not ACE can provide these services to our membership. Prior to the passage of the bill, electric cooperatives like ACE were prevented by law from providing broadband. We have been performing feasibility studies to determine whether or not we can bear this responsibility. We have an obligation to our electric membership to ensure that providing other services does not affect the performance and financial standing of our electric operations.”
Howard has been working with his staff to determine the feasibility of such an undertaking. Sean McGrath, CFO of ACE Power stated, “HB 366 states that if the cooperative chooses to provide broadband, it must adopt a plan to serve all of the membership. Under HB 366 we would not be able to use electric revenues to fund the operation of the new broadband venture. We agree with this, as this protects our current members and will have no effect on their electric rates. Our job now is to put together potential business plans that would look at how we would form such a business and the funding options that would be available to us.”
While broadband services would be a completely new business for electric cooperatives like ACE, the Alcorn County based cooperative is no stranger to fiber optics. “We have had fiber optic cabling installed for several years now,” stated Jason Grisham, COO of ACE Power. “Initially this fiber was used to connect our substations with our headquarters, but has since been used to connect other devices, such as intelligent switching and our metering infrastructure. We have also been able to lease excess fiber capacity to provide interconnectivity to business and industry in Corinth and Alcorn County.”
As ACE continues to study the feasibility of providing broadband services, they ask for patience from the members of the association. “We know that our members need this right now,” stated Howard, “but we also know that something of this magnitude will take some time. Our goal is to make sure that we look into every aspect of this opportunity and do what is right for our community. At the end of the day, this may mean that we cannot provide these services. But our promise to our members is that we will perform our due diligence and have our membership at the heart of the decision.”