Survey gauges interest in broadband internet

By BETH BUNCH,

Southern Pine Electric has mailed out a survey to its membership to measure interest in the cooperative providing broadband Internet service.

According to Leif Munkel, communication coordinator for Southern Pine, the survey simply asks one question: whether customers support or do not support Southern Pine providing broadband Internet service.

Chris Bowen, a Forrest County supervisor and Southern Pine customer, said he had already filled out his survey online.

“This is just an initiative to determine the popularity of it, and to see whether people would like to see the company introduce a program for rural broadband,” he said. “But by no means does it mean they will do it.”

The cooperative is considering building a broadband network to bring high-speed Internet to the service area, but they need to know what their customers’ wants and needs are.

Up until the 2019 legislative session, a 1942 law was in place that banned member-owned power cooperatives from providing anything but electricity. Mississippi was the only state in the nation with such a law.

In November 2018, Mississippi’s Public Service Commission unanimously issued a resolution requesting that the state’s law be changed during the  2019 Legislative Session to allow rural electric cooperatives to provide high-speed internet service.

House Bill 366, sponsored by House Speaker Philip Gunn (R), would allow cooperatives to deliver broadband Internet through a subsidiary. The bill only gives these electric associations the option to provide such service; it does not require that they provide such.

Customers can answer the survey online or can mail it back in. The mailer contains a password you need to cast your vote. The completed survey must be returned by Nov. 8.

Members who participate will be entered in a drawing for one of five prizes, including an iPhone XR, Google Chromebook and a Microsoft Surface Pro.

Members can get updates about the survey through Southern Pine’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

Southern Pine Electric is a member-owned, not-for-profit cooperative that distributes electricity to more than 67,000 meters in 11 counties in central and south Mississippi. It is headquartered in Taylorsville and has offices in Brandon, Newton, Hattiesburg and New Hebron. It serves approximately 6,500 residents in Hattiesburg.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact your local Southern Pine office.

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