(District 39 Sen. Sally) Doty, chairwoman of the Senate Energy Committee, said only “three or four” of the state’s coops are willing to develop the infrastructure needed to offer broadband services right away.
“Once those three or four get up and running, I think the others will follow suit — but this isn’t a situation where it goes into law July 1 and you have internet Aug. 1,” she said. “It is so expensive, it will have to be done in phases. It’s going to take some time.”
While the first week of the session started slowly, with legislators getting back into the governing groove with meetings and feel-good resolutions, discussions on broadband are already heating up. (District 92 Rep. Becky) Currie said another issue lawmakers and power companies will have to fix is fees for running internet lines on power poles not owned by the providing power companies.
“There’s no agreement yet. When you start putting money on the table, people start getting weird,” she said.
(District 53 Rep. Vince) Mangold said the Legislature would do its part — restrictions preventing electric coops from getting into the internet business will be removed by the end of the session, no matter what other agreements are struck. Government will get out of the way, but that will not guarantee companies will make the investment needed, he said.
“We’re going to give them the opportunity to go do it, but whether you at the end of the road in the deep backwoods in Franklin, Lincoln or Lawrence counties is going to get it, that’s yet to be determined,” Mangold said. “I’ve talked to some of our electric coops around here, and they say, ‘Vince, we cannot afford to do it.’”