Rural broadband legislation

In recent days you may have read several news articles about rural broadband. Both legislators and public service commissioners are becoming more and more supportive of electric cooperatives becoming broadband service providers. We are also aware of the increasing drumbeat throughout the country regarding the need to make quality broadband services available in areas that are currently unserved or underserved, especially in rural areas. We are also aware of increased discussions (nationally, regionally and locally) concerning the role electric cooperatives might be able to play in providing or facilitating the provision of such services.

We at East Mississippi Electric Power Association also believe greater broadband availability in our services areas would benefit our members substantially, including improvements in quality of life, economic development, education opportunities, health-care benefits and economic growth.

Currently, in Mississippi, electric cooperatives are limited purpose corporations and do not have the freedom to provide broadband. We were chartered to provide electric service to member-owners in areas not being served at the time. To ensure financial stability in those areas, certificated areas were defined through the public service commission. Investor-owned utilities were given specific areas to serve and cooperatives were given the remaining areas. In these defined service territories, the party responsible for their certificated area had the exclusive right to serve electricity in conjunction with the responsibility to serve all that request service.

We hear frequently from our members their need for broadband access throughout our service areas. Many request services from other utilities and are told it is not financially feasible to build the infrastructure required to gain access to broadband in their area. This is much like the arguments used in the 1930s when people requested electricity, and from the profit-oriented business perspective, it is a true statement given the return on investment required by these companies.

So where does that leave EMEPA and our members? We have engaged the assistance of various consultants, and 19 cooperatives throughout the state have conducted preliminary studies that examine the economic feasibility of installing a fiber network for electric (smart grid) purposes and for providing (or facilitating the provision of) broadband to their members. However, there remains substantial work to be done. It is without a doubt an expensive proposition. A backbone fiber solution on the EMEPA system could cost as much as $145 million dollars. Then the service drops and equipment for the homes would be an addition to this cost.

The legal and financial challenges associated with broadband are significant. Many questions must be answered before any decisions on a path forward can be made, including questions relating to statutory and corporate authorization, entity structure, tax implications and financial feasibility. We continue to study the broadband issues and have reached out to possible partners but are not yet in a position to determine what role, if any, EMEPA can play in the delivery of broadband service.

It is extremely critical that any broadband legislation affecting the cooperatives be done correctly. Such legislation must address and resolve multiple legal and economic issues in a careful, fully-informed and comprehensive way, and in a way that gets quality, reasonably-priced broadband to as many Mississippians as possible without negatively affecting the distribution system we have worked so hard to build over the past 80 years.

Our preferred choice would be for existing broadband providers to quickly and affordably provide the services in which they are so experienced to all areas of our state, but we will continue to explore all avenues for potential benefit to our members. As the needs of our members grow, we continue to look for opportunities to empower east Mississippi as we have for the past 80 years.

EMEPA office holiday closings

EMEPA offices will be closed Monday, Dec. 24 and Tuesday, Dec. 25 for Christmas and Tuesday, Jan. 1 for New Year’s Day. We wish you and your family and Merry and Bright Christmas. Dispatchers will remain on duty in case of an outage or emergency situation and may be reached at 601-581-8600. Outages may also…Continue Reading

EMEPA recognizes employees for years of service

Thank you for your unwavering service With a combined total of 615 years of service to East Mississippi Electric Power Association and our 37,000+ members, the following employees were recently recognized at EMEPA’s Employee Christmas Dinner for their years of dedication. Thank you for your commitment to lighting east Mississippi. 5-Year Awards Kris Lott Ronald…Continue Reading

EMEPA warns of third-party payment website

WARNING: EMEPA has recently experienced an increase in third-party online bill pay websites that appear to be affiliated with EMEPA, but are not. Such third-party websites allow members to pay their electric bills via their site; however, members may be charged extra fees, and EMEPA cannot control when, or even if, we will receive the member payments,…Continue Reading

We’re Thankful for Your Membership

By Randy Carroll, CEO “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” In the spirit of this quote by author William Arthur Ward, I’d like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for your membership in our electric cooperative. Because of your connection to East Mississippi Electric…Continue Reading

EMEPA hosts Cooperative University

  From a hands-on safety and “Life of a Lineman” demonstration to a guided tour of East Mississippi Electric Power Association’s headquarters, 14 students from across east Mississippi recently experienced first hand what it means to be part of an electric cooperative. EMEPA hosted Cooperative University in October as part of its annual Youth Leadership…Continue Reading

EMEPA prepares to send crews to Florida

East Mississippi Electric Power Association is preparing to send 18 employees including linemen, servicemen and engineers to Tri-County Electric Cooperative, Inc., headquartered in Madison, Florida, to aid in power restoration efforts following Hurricane Michael. Tri-County Electric’s service territory is among the areas in the predicted path of Hurricane Michael, which is currently a category 4…Continue Reading

The challenge of meeting member needs

By CEO Randy Carroll This year marks the 80th year East Mississippi Electric Power Association has been delivering the energy needed to empower lives and grow our communities. The 139 employees of EMEPA are dedicated to building, maintaining and operating over 5,700 miles of distribution lines in a safe, affordable and reliable manner. To do…Continue Reading

EMEPA prepares to send crews to South Carolina

East Mississippi Electric Power Association is preparing to send 20 employees including linemen, servicemen and engineers to Edisto Electric Cooperative, Inc., headquartered in Bamberg, South Carolina, to aid in power restoration efforts following Hurricane Florence. Edisto Electric is preparing for the possibility of significant damage and widespread power outages in the wake of the storm.…Continue Reading

EMEPA to hold 80th Annual Meeting

Join East Mississippi Electric Power Association for our 80th Annual Meeting of the membership Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, in the Association’s Meridian Auditorium. Official notices were mailed in August to invite you and all EMEPA members to attend our Annual Meeting. The Annual Meeting will inform members of actions taken during the past year in addition…Continue Reading