CEC to look at bringing in a third party for broadband services

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 14, 2019

Covington Electric Cooperative is interested in bringing in a third party to provide broadband services to the surrounding areas that they cover.

CEC members received a survey last week that asked four different things:

  • If the members had an appetite for broadband services.
  • If they have broadband services.
  • If they are satisfied with the service.
  • and what price point are they willing to pay for different levels of service.

CEC President Ed Short said the next step after receiving the information from the surveys is seeing what the economic process would be if they put it through a third party.

“Right now we are not interested in getting back into the Internet business,” Short said. “But we are more than willing to help a third party come in and provide that.”

Short said the only way that it may work is if they bring fiber optic cables throughout the county.

“If they bring that, then the third party can take advantage of that,” Short said. “And circulate it through the different homes. Even if they do run the fiber optic cables, there are still some people that are going to be in pockets. I don’t think you’ll ever see a day where they can run fiber optics to every single house.”

CEC is working with TWN Communications, a company that has worked with electric cooperatives for more than 20 years to provide broadband and communication services to co-op members.

Short said that it is a known fact that people in the county are very disgruntled with Internet providers in the county.

“For economic development, you need a dependable high-speed network,” Short said. “For example, our neighbors at J.M. Jackson called the other week because their Internet and phone were out and he pretty much had to shut down. Economic development at the airport depends on it, as well. There is no doubt that there is a need here. So, we are just trying to see if we can help a third party come in and supply that need.”

More than 1,400 members of the CEC have taken the survey so far since June 1, Senior Vice President Mark Parker said.

“We sent a letter to all of our members as well as bill stuffers to remind our members to take the survey,” Parker said. “We have also put some posts on social media trying to get our members to react to the survey. We can’t see what the results are yet, but we can see the amount of people that have turned it in.”

At the end of May, Gov. Kay Ivey signed HB400, which would have no cost to the state or local governments, and confirms that electric providers can install, operate and maintain broadband systems using their existing electric easements.

This is expected to encourage electric providers to invest in broadband deployment and accelerate the cost-effective expansion of broadband access in rural Alabama, in many cases using existing infrastructure.

Electric providers may also work with affiliates or third parties under contract to help provide broadband under HB400.