Jackson, Miss. (Y’all Politics) – Since 2020, 100,000 rural Mississippi residents have subscribed to and received reliable high-speed internet from 17 wholly owned subsidiaries of electric cooperatives across the state, this according to the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi (ECM).

The 17 electric cooperative subsidiaries have collectively built nearly 25,000 miles of fiber optical cable and invested more than $760 million for high-speed internet infrastructure.

“These 17 electric cooperatives began offering high-speed internet in 2020, so in just a short two-year time span, the cooperatives have created subsidiary organizations, secured funding, completed engineering design plans, constructed fiber lines, and are serving 100,000 rural residents with quality high-speed internet service,” ECM said in a release. “The number of subscribers continues to grow every day.”

For many of the subsidiaries, the number of internet subscribers has surpassed, and in some areas, even doubled what the feasibility studies estimated.

Governor Tate Reeves stated that this is a tremendous win for our rural communities.

“High-speed internet plays a foundational role in driving education and economic gains, and we’re going to continue expanding access to this technology across Mississippi,” Governor Reeves said.

Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann noted that in a global economy, Mississippians must have the opportunity to be connected to be successful.

“This is why the millions of dollars invested by the Legislature in broadband over the past several years are so important,” Hosemann said. “We are grateful to our electric cooperatives and all providers who have joined with us in an effort to equip even the most rural areas of Mississippi with high-speed Internet access.”

Speaker of the House Philip Gunn said as the end of the calendar year approaches, he applauds Mississippi’s 17 electric cooperatives that have reached 100,000 plus homes and businesses with their high-speed internet services.

“In 2019 I was proud to author HB 366, The Mississippi Broadband Enabling Act, which permitted the electric cooperatives statutory authority to provide internet services across Mississippi,” Gunn continued.

Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi’s CEO Michael Callahan said the collective efforts of the electric cooperatives’ subsidiaries will combine to be one of the largest economic development investments in our state’s history.

“The benefits of this infrastructure investment will impact Mississippians for decades to come,” Callahan said. “The work that our cooperatives and their subsidiaries have accomplished over the past couple of years is remarkable. Reaching 100,000 subscribers collectively is an incredible milestone and a testament to the hard work of our employees across the state,” Callahan said. “As the build out for high-speed internet continues across our state, many more rural families will soon have access to reliable and fast internet service.”

“Offering high-speed internet seemed like a risky business venture because it is costly; however, after the meeting in Tupelo with Commissioner Presley, several of our cooperatives conducted feasibility studies. Although it was costly, the studies showed that for many of our cooperatives it would be beneficial for the members, who needed the service, and for the cooperatives,” Callahan explained.

The ECM CEO said the need in Mississippi for high-speed internet became painfully clear with the onset of the pandemic in 2020. ECM said the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the need for high-speed internet for distance learning, telemedicine, and work from home opportunities.

“During the 2020 Legislative session, Chairman Scott Bounds of the House Public Utilities Committee and Chairman Joel Carter of the Senate Energy Committee worked to create and approve the COVID-19 Broadband Grant Program, providing $75 million in matching grant funds to 15 of the 17 cooperatives. The grant funding was made available through the CARES Act, which provided financial recovery to the state from the federal government for the COVID-19 pandemic,” the release stated.

The Broadband Grant Program funded pilot projects for the electric cooperatives’ subsidiaries to provide high-speed internet service to unserved or underserved areas of the state.

Before this grant funding was made available, only four local electric cooperatives had board approval and were moving forward with internet projects.

Read Original Story (Oct. 24, 2022)