A bill that would have significantly hampered the ability of electric cooperatives in Louisiana to provide retail broadband to their members was struck down by the governor following a broad grassroots effort by the state’s co-ops.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed the bill June 8, noting that amendments to the measure ran counter to its original intent of allowing electric co-ops to enter the broadband business to serve their 1 million members.
Quick work by the
Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives, with assistance from NRECA, helped derail the legislation, which had been passed unanimously by the state House and Senate. ALEC CEO Jeff Arnold brought the governor 500 signed petitions opposing the bill and explained the concerns of co-ops and their members.
“Our member Louisiana electric cooperatives have done an excellent job of cultivating relationships with their member-consumers,” said Arnold. “It is truly impressive to watch their members jump into action when they are called upon by their local electric cooperative. Relationships like these are only built with integrity and being a trusted source for political information.”
The original bill would have authorized electric co-ops to allow internet service providers access to their poles without requiring additional consent of property owners. But it was amended to restrict electric co-op broadband projects to areas deemed “unserved” by the Federal Communications Commission. These FCC designations are based on service provider filings at a census block level and are known to be inaccurate.
“Such a law would have been bad for electric cooperatives that seek to serve all their members equally and bad for consumers generally by depriving them of competition, and in some cases depriving them of access in the first place,” said Kelly Wismer, NRECA’s legislative director for broadband initiatives.
Another bill advancing in the state legislature, which the governor has indicated he will sign, would facilitate Louisiana co-ops entering the broadband space or allowing internet service providers to use their infrastructure without the restrictions of the vetoed bill.