RIPLEY • Tippah Electric Power Association is one step closer to deciding whether or not to offer broadband internet access to their customers.

The Mississippi Broadband Enabling Act, which was signed into law earlier this year, allows electric power cooperatives across the state to create subsidiaries to offer high-speed internet service to their customers. 

A feasibility study must be conducted before a cooperative can move forward. TEPA General Manager Tim Smith said three feasibility studies, which looked at different factors such as total estimate of costs and how many broadband customers would be needed to break even, were conducted for TEPA.

TEPA board members voted Thursday, Oct. 10 to amend their articles of incorporation allowing the company to offer the broadband internet service.  The amendment states that TEPA has the legal right to form, manage and sell broadband through a broadband subsidiary.

Smith said that legal steps have to be taken in order to form broadband subsidiaries. “The articles of incorporation lay out what TEPA can do. We can’t do anything that is not in the articles,” said Smith. “When the articles were written back in 1937 no one knew what broadband or internet was.” 

Thursday’s vote was the first in a two-step process. The next step is for TEPA members (customers) to vote to amend the articles of incorporation. 

Smith expects ballots for the amendment to be sent out to members next week “We will send a ballot out to all the membership.” 

Smith said the ballots will include an explanation of what members are voting on. “If you are in favor of amending the articles of incorporation, vote yes. If you are against amending the articles of incorporation, vote no.”

If you vote yes on the ballot, you will be voting to allow TEPA to amend the articles to form a broadband subsidiary and possibly offer internet access to all TEPA customers. A no vote will be against amending the articles and offering internet access to TEPA customers. 

For the amendment to pass, at least 10 percent of TEPA members have to vote. Of the 10 percent or greater that vote, 60 percent have to vote in favor of the amendment.

The deadline for ballots to be returned is Tuesday, Nov. 12. The ballots will include a self-addressed, prepaid envelope. “No postage will be due. Just vote, tear it out, put it in the envelope and send it back,” said Smith. 

Smith stressed that voting to change the articles does not require Tippah Electric to move forward. If the board decides to move forward the process will be done in phases and it will take approximately 30 - 36 months from the day they start running the fiber network to the time everyone has fiber access. Getting customers connected to the network will be an ongoing process.

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