The Monroe County Electric Power Association (MCEPA) Board of Directors held a special meeting Nov. 12 to review results from the broadband survey mailed to the members. The response received indicated a landslide of support to proceed with establishing rural broadband internet service to its customers.

Mississippi Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley was exuberant about the results.

“No one at MCEPA was listening to anyone about this project until member-owners rose up and made their voices heard,” he said. “Over 10 times the amount of members cast their vote for the broadband project than even voted in the last board election.”

From the survey, 3,948 members out of the 10,871 members responded that they “would definitely or probably would” subscribe to MCEPA’s broadband service, according to a post general manager Barry Rowland made on the cooperative’s Facebook page.

“This would compute to a 36 percent take rate, which is much higher than the calculated take rate from our first feasibility study. The board of directors and I feel like the survey result is the most accurate way of judging the success of this project,” according to the post.

The board of directors voted to move on to the next step in the process, which is to take appropriate action to amend the MCEPA Articles of Incorporation to allow for activities authorized by last year’s legislation known as the Mississippi Broadband Enabling Act, according to the Facebook post.

“This step will require a vote from the membership of MCEPA. To ensure that every member has the opportunity to vote, a ballot will be mailed to the members,” according to the post.

According to results of the survey, 3,106 members, or 65.68 percent, currently have internet access at the location where they receive electric service from MCEPA. Conversely, 1,571 members, or 33.22 percent, replied that they did not have internet service.

A total of 4,148 members, or 87.71 percent, replied that they would be willing to purchase fiber-based internet service from MCEPA at a minimum speed of 100 Mbps at a projected cost of approximately $50 per month, as opposed to 472 members, or 9.98 percent, who would not.

A resounding majority of the 4,535 respondents, or 95.90 percent, agreed that MCEPA should offer high-speed fiber internet to its members, compared with 140 respondents, or 2.95 percent, who voted “no.”

Rowland said three prospective vendors for the project will be interviewed, whereupon work groups will be established to work with the vendor selected. A final decision as to system design and consultants will be made in the near future.

“This victory for the future belongs solely to the member-owners of MCEPA who made their voices heard,” Presley said.

Twitter: @JLgrindin

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