New law lets electric co-ops offer internet

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Twenty five electric cooperatives now have legal authority to offer high-speed internet service.

Governor Phil Bryant signed House Bill 366 and it became law immediately. Cooperatives provide electricity to nearly 800,000 Mississippi customers. The law allows the co-ops to enter the internet business.

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Officials with Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi, a statewide trade association, say 20 of 25 members have conducted feasibility studies. They’re racing to apply for a share of $600 million in loans and grants the U.S. Department of Agriculture will award this year to expand service.

Cooperatives aren’t required to offer and current customers wouldn’t be required to buy service.

The law allows cooperatives to invest money, loan money, or guarantee loans to affiliates, but says they can’t use revenue from electric sales to subsidize broadband.