Mississippi’s Pontotoc Electric Power Association (PEPA) met remotely earlier this month and voted down a proposal to provide broadband coverage. Citizens opposing this decision are collecting signatures and rallying in response, insisting that this is a necessary service, reports Daily Journal.
PEPA declined to provide broadband, unlike the other 11 cooperatives in the area. Those other providers are all moving forward with plans. “It is a very complex issue. I realize there is a demand for it. I would have loved to do it, but financially it is too much. The money wasn’t there and there are too many unanswered questions,” said Board President, Larry Parker. “We even looked at building it and leasing the system, but they only wanted to have a managerial role and not assume any liability. We truthfully tried every way possible to make it work.”
The newly formed PEPA Members for Rural Broadband Internet disputes these assertions, suggesting that creative funding options are available and shouldn’t be dismissed. The opposition group also reports that a survey conducted by PEPA was skewed against broadband and was only returned by a fraction of those who received it. People want broadband, they say. Site organizer Jackie Courson said that 400 people joined up in the first two days after the group’s launch and they hope to have at least 1,000 before PEPA’s May meeting.
Individuals speaking on behalf of PEPA said that the idea of going into the broadband business was not feasible, no matter how the matter was handled. However, Brandon Presley, Northern District Public Service Commissioner, said “That is Model T thinking in a Tesla world. You have to view it as an investment in the future.”
He and Courson have stated that the issue is too important to be pushed aside and are looking into partnering with neighboring cooperatives to move forward with broadband initiatives. “It would be a shame and disgrace if another cooperative had to come in there and serve their member owners,” said Presley. “I have no objection to one EPA going into another’s coverage area, but I think it would work best if the community serves itself.”