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Supervisors Support Broadband Enabling Act

By David Howell


WATER VALLEY – Yalobusha County supervisors have joined their peers from 30-plus counties across Mississippi asking state lawmakers to change the law to allow electric power associations to bring high-speed internet service to rural areas.  The local support came with a unanimous vote on Dec. 21 to adopt a resolution asking legislators to pass the “Mississippi Broadband Enabling Act” during the 2019 Legislative Session.

Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley has been a driving force in the effort to change a 1942 law that restricts electric power associations from providing internet service. 

“This summer, the statewide association of electric cooperatives voted unanimously to ask legislators to change,” Presley wrote in an op-ed piece (see Page 4). “This is a simple fix that could save our rural communities, keep our children and grandchildren home and change the future of the state,” he continued.

Last month Presley reached out to counties and municipalities in north Mississippi asking for support for the legislation that will be introduced when state lawmakers gavel in next week in Jackson. Presley reported that the support continues to grow with 57 municipalities also adopting resolutions in favor of the law change. 

“In every state bordering Mississippi, and across the nation, electric cooperatives owned by the people, are bringing affordable, high-speed internet service to their members,” Presley explained.

The sales pitch for local officials wasn’t needed, as District 5 Supervisor Gaylon Gray noted that high-speed internet service is not available at his home in the southeast portion of the county.

“It has really helped Alabama,” Gray added, referring to success the neighboring state has experienced with a similar program.  

“This really should be a slam dunk for the State of Mississippi, we have so many rural addresses,” Board President Cayce Washington added about the effort during the brief discussion on the matter before the vote during the final supervisor meeting of 2018.

District 33 State Representative Tommy Reynolds is another strong advocate of the law change. Last month Reynolds wrote in his column, Report To the People, that he will support the measure in the upcoming legislative session.

“Mississippi is primarily a rural state and because our law has prohibited the cooperatives from allowing broadband systems to use their facilities, many of our citizens have been denied the good, quality broadband service at a reasonable price that others take for granted,” Reynolds explained. “I believe it will positively affect the  security and economic development of our rural communities in unprecedented ways.” 

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