/PSC chairman seeks ‘outside-the-box’ ideas to solve infrastructure problems

PSC chairman seeks ‘outside-the-box’ ideas to solve infrastructure problems

Presley, who is the representative of the Northern District of the Commission, addressed the Capitol press corps Monday afternoon and asked for cooperation from utility and telecommunications companies in solving some of Mississippi’s rural infrastructure problems, including limited access to natural gases and high-speed Internet. Presley stated that many broadband providers are profit-oriented, which has resulted in a shortage of services for rural areas. Presley stated that rural Mississippi has been left 150 percent unmet by the (broadband market). Presley stated that the market and broadband had repeatedly said that rural Mississippi could “go pound sand” because it is not profitable. While these are not new concerns or issues for the commission, Presley highlighted recently-established programs they will be using to address these issues. The commission approved a $11 million rural broadband project. Entergy will work with C Spire to install and manage fiber optic cable, and other broadband infrastructure over more than 300 miles across 15 Mississippi counties. Commission filings indicate that Entergy will collaborate with Mississippi Public Utilities staff to develop a plan for recovering grid modernization costs. Presley stated that the December commission approved a plan for Atmos Energy, which will take $5 million per annum over the next five-years — or $25,000,000 total — from revenue previously approved by it to service areas without natural gas service. Presley encourages “outside the box thinking” and other initiatives from utilities, in the same manner that Tombigbee Electric Cooperative, Hamilton, Ala., provides high-speed internet access to rural customers. Presley hopes that the system will be adopted by electric cooperatives throughout Mississippi. According to Presley, electric cooperatives in Mississippi were interested in the idea and the legal staff of the commission is looking into whether legislation would be needed to allow these cooperatives to offer similar services to their customers. Presley stated that if we keep our heads in the sand regarding this issue, it will complicate the lives and future of the state’s economy and education, and contribute to the rural and brain drain in our state._x000D