AMORY – Following an Aug. 20 community meeting in Becker regarding Monroe County Electric Power Association (MCEPA) members’ pleas for progress regarding rural broadband availability, steps have been taken by the electric cooperative’s board of directors to further study the possibility of providing an affordable solution.

MCEPA members at the community meeting wanted at least three board members to sign an agreement that would allow for the formation of an 11-member advisory board of cooperative members to research broadband options, an amendment to the MCEPA charter to allow for the sale of broadband services and to authorize a second feasibility study, according to Monroe Journal coverage of the meeting.

The MCEPA Board of Directors held a special-called meeting Aug. 27, and the decision was made to mail out a survey to the entire membership to tabulate the prospective number of customers willing to subscribe to broadband service through MCEPA and ultimately determine the success of the project. Members will be requested to reply prior to Nov. 1.

“The information concerning the survey will be posted on MCEPA’s Facebook page or website [www.monroecountyelectric.com] as soon as that information is available after first being tabulated by our auditors,” said MCEPA General Manger Barry Rowland.

According to a post from the electric cooperative’s Facebook page and website, the survey will include questions regarding current broadband service in customers’ areas, if the electric cooperative should provide the service and the willingness of cooperative members to enroll in the service if it’s offered through the MCEPA.

A separate online post states the MCEPA Board of Directors is committed to take necessary steps in amending its charter if the survey is successful and the feasibility studies and survey are positive.

The electric cooperative’s board of directors’ agreement to pursue feasibility studies regarding broadband traces back to early this year, shortly after the passage of House Bill 366 by the Mississippi Legislature. The bill gives electric cooperatives across Mississippi the authority to provide broadband services for their electric service customers.

Rowland said that during the Feb. 5 board of directors meeting, the board made the decision to obtain two feasibility studies not to exceed a total cost of $22,000.

The first study, conducted by Conexon, provided a fiber-to-the-home business model to be built in two years at a cost of $29 million.

The MCEPA Board approved a request during its Aug. 6 meeting for a modification of the estimate to extend the build-out calendar to four years instead of two, which board members thought would be a more realistic approach regarding both construction and cost. The electric cooperative is still awaiting findings from the revised study.

According to MCEPA board attorney Scott Hendrix, a waiting period of 45 to 60 days is expected before receiving a reply. Rowland said the MCEPA entered into an agreement on Aug. 26 with another company, Fiber Rise, to conduct the second feasibility study.

Another matter related to Aug. 20’s community meeting was MCEPA board member Rickey Camp’s resignation. The district he represented covers much of the central part of the county, generally from a northerly line even with County Barn Road in Amory to a southern boundary in the vicinity of Center Hill Road near Hamilton.

Rowland said interested members living in that part of the county are invited to contact a board member to be placed in consideration.

The board members will meet to appoint another member to serve out Camp’s unexpired term per the bylaws. Rowland said the window of time for this process is at the discretion of the board.

According to Section 6 of Article IV of the bylaws, “a vacancy occurring in the Board of Directors shall be filled by the affirmative vote of a majority of the remaining directors for the unexpired portion of the term.”

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