Maryland’s eastern shore electric provider, Choptank Electric Cooperative (CEC), is seeking member support of deregulation ahead of its broadband deployment initiative.
An emergency bill was passed unanimously in the House and Senate on March 18, to allow CEC to deliver broadband to its members in nine counties on the Eastern Shore. Under the bill, CEC must conduct a vote of its members and secure the signatures of at least 7,000 of its 46,000 eligible voters to become member regulated.
CEC distributed over 500 yard signs that read: “Vote yes for broadband through member regulation.” According to MyEasternShoreMD, members have demanded more signs for distribution and votes are already coming in.
Sarah Dahl, general counsel for Choptank, said the provisions in the new law allow member owners the ability to vote the cooperative back under PSC regulation if need be. “We think there’s a lot of protection built into that model,” said Dahl. Only 1,000 member signatures would be required by vote to undo deregulation.
CEC’s website has a page dedicated to its broadband initiative, including FAQ’s on the member regulation vote. A Notice of Special Meeting on Member Regulation was sent to members on May 15, providing details about the initiative and an official ballot. Members can vote online, by mail-in ballot, or in-person on August 13.
Matt Teffeau, Choptank’s manager of government affairs, said the meetings are expected to be held in person, but guidelines for public gatherings, which currently are limited to 10 people due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are being monitored, reported MyEasternShoreMD. “If limitations on public gatherings are not increased by June 1, we will create Zoom webinars and call-in numbers so that members can interact with leadership about our plans,” Teffeau said.
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