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With Electric Co-ops, an Opportunity to Change the Politics of Broadband in Rural America

Drew Clark



BROADBAND BREAKFAST INSIGHT: This piece by our friend and colleague Craig Settles addresses several issues about co-ops, broadband, and rural economic development being addressed at the Broadband Communities Summit this week in Austin, Texas. Both Craig Settles, the author of this piece, and Tim Marema, the editor of, participated in the Rural Telecommunications Congress program from Tuesday to Thursday. Additional sessions at the conference on Thursday will continue the discussion about electric cooperatives and their role in the rural broadband landscape.

Are State Legislatures Wising Up About Broadband Co-ops?, from Daily Yonder:

State legislatures are inadvertently contributing to a fast-growing trend that’s leading to better broadband: co-ops partnering with municipalities and counties.

In North Carolina, H 431 (the FIBER NC Act) would reduce barriers for local governments to invest in publicly owned broadband infrastructure and work with private-sector partners. The state currently has one of the most draconian restrictions on municipalities’ ability to build these networks.

Community broadband activists say the North Carolina bills represent a potential tipping point.

“Their bill is an attempt to loosen the tight grip of vested internet providers over the state’s rural future,” says Rebecca Levings, an activist in Tennessee. “It will free up municipal providers to partner with private and other public providers. If it passes, we probably will see this momentum spread to Tennessee,” which currently restricts those types of public involvement.

The legislature is also addressing barriers to co-ops building and operating broadband networks.


Source: Are State Legislatures Wising Up about Broadband Co-ops? - Daily Yonder

(Photo via Botetourt County Economic Development Facebook page.)

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  1. Avatar

    Vince D'Onofrio

    April 11, 2019 at 11:18 pm

    You talk about electric co-ops and you talk about rural broadband, but the two topics don’t appear to cross over in the article. What synergies do power companies have with the proliferation of broadband in rural America? It isn’t at all obvious. Don’t you think there should be at least a few sentences that link the two businesses together somehow?

  2. Drew Clark

    Drew Clark

    May 1, 2019 at 12:17 am

    Electric co-ops have a remarkable array of access to rights of way, which are an important (and often costly!) aspect of getting access to rural broadband. Electric co-ops are an important force in rural America, and they do tend to be focused in rural America, so it is natural that they will be an important part of a solution for broadband in rural regions.

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