Mississippi electric co-ops top 100,000 high-speed internet subscribers | Mississippi Politics and News

As of 2020, 100,000 rural residents have subscribed to and received high-speed Internet from 17 wholly-owned electric cooperative affiliates across the state.

According to the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi (ECM), as of 2020, 100,000 rural Mississippi residents have subscribed to and received reliable, high-speed Internet from 17 wholly owned electric cooperative affiliates across the state.

The 17 electrical cooperative subsidiaries have collectively installed nearly 25,000 miles of fiber optic cable and invested more than $760 million in high-speed Internet infrastructure.

“These 17 electricity cooperatives started offering high-speed internet in 2020, so in just a short span of two years, the cooperatives have established subsidiary organizations, secured funding, finalized technical design plans, built fiber optic lines, and provided 100,000 rural residents with quality high-speed internet service,” said ECM in a press release. “The number of subscribers continues to grow every day.”

At many subsidiaries, the number of Internet subscribers has exceeded feasibility study estimates and in some areas even doubled.

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

“High-speed Internet plays a fundamental role in driving education and economic gain, and we will continue to expand access to this technology throughout Mississippi,” Gov. Reeves said.

Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann pointed out that in a global economy, Mississippi citizens must be able to be connected in order to thrive.

“That’s why the millions of dollars that lawmakers have invested in broadband over the last few years are so important,” Hosemann said. “We are grateful to our electricity cooperatives and all the providers who have joined us to bring high-speed Internet access to even the most rural areas of Mississippi.”

House Speaker Philip Gunn said that by the end of the calendar year he commended Mississippi’s 17 electricity cooperatives that have reached more than 100,000 homes and businesses with their high-speed Internet service.

“In 2019, I was proud to author HB 366, the Mississippi Broadband Enabling Act, which allowed the statutory powers of electricity cooperatives to provide internet service throughout Mississippi,” continued Gunn.

Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi CEO Michael Callahan said the combined efforts of the Electric Cooperatives’ subsidiaries will represent one of the largest investments in economic development in our state’s history.

“The benefits of this infrastructure investment will impact Mississippi residents for decades to come,” Callahan said. “The work that our cooperatives and their subsidiaries have done in recent years is remarkable. Reaching 100,000 total subscribers is an incredible milestone and a testament to the hard work of our employees across the state,” said Callahan. “As the rollout of high-speed Internet continues in 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 because it’s expensive; However, following the meeting in Tupelo with Commissioner Presley, several of our cooperatives conducted feasibility studies. Although costly, the studies indicated that for many of our co-ops it would be beneficial to the members who required the service and to the co-ops,” Callahan explained.

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

“During the 2020 legislature, House Public Utilities Committee Chairman Scott Bounds and Senate Energy Committee Chairman Joel Carter worked to create and approve the COVID-19 broadband grant program and allocate 15 of the $17.75 million in grant funding to related cooperatives. The grant funding was made available through the CARES Act, which provided the state with a financial recovery from the federal government for the COVID-19 pandemic,” the release said.

The Broadband Grant Program funded pilot projects for utility company affiliates to provide high-speed Internet service to unserved or underserved areas of the state.

Before these grant funds were made available, only four local electricity cooperatives had board approval and were pushing internet projects.