For more than 80 years, we’ve been able to provide reliable electric service to our members while keeping our rates among the lowest in Texas. As a cooperative governed by a board of directors, we are committed to providing personalized customer service and reliable electricity that powers the beautiful Texas Hill Country. And we do so by listening to our members and having true concern for their needs.
Some of our members have requested we become more involved in broadband accessibility or connectivity. Broadband technology is an entirely different line of business than outlined in our mission statement — which emphasizes the cooperative’s commitment to delivering safe, reliable, and low-cost energy solutions for the benefit of our members. Because members have asked, we have regularly reviewed strategies and data regarding members’ access to broadband connectivity.
Based on an initial evaluation, it is evident our members have varying levels of need for internet connectivity or broadband services. After all, the cooperative’s service territory spans 8,100 square miles across 24 counties in Central Texas with over 340,000 meters. To provide broadband services, we must carefully evaluate financing and corporate structures along with all legal and regulatory constraints.
At this point in our examination, no readily apparent pathway has been found that accounts for PEC’s size. But that hasn’t stopped us from continuing to gather information, explore participation in partnerships, serve as a resource, and share expertise that helps facilitate community efforts.
While the cooperative is exploring options for the provision of broadband, whatever steps taken in the future must first support our original purpose — providing safe, reliable, and low-cost electric service to our members. Further, the cooperative will not subsidize broadband services with electric service or allow the provision of broadband to increase our members’ electric bills with any unnecessary, unapproved additional debt, nor will the cooperative undertake the provision of broadband with added federal regulations. These factors will control any decision made by the board and will give PEC staff parameters for creating possible viable broadband business plan options for consideration.
Moving forward, the board will share activities on the cooperative’s analysis of the provision of broadband services. The board intends to discuss the financial, corporate, legal, and regulatory considerations in the provision of any broadband services. This discussion, including Legislative File #2020-342 (Revised 09/18/20) v3 information, will continue at a board workshop in October 2020. We anticipate further findings by the board in early 2021.