Members of the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative have voted by a wide margin to add rural broadband service to the utility’s mission.
The vote was 88 percent in favor of adding broadband to the Co-op’s bylaws, alongside electric service. An earlier campaign to do this fell just short of passing.
The change could help the Co-op receive public funding for broadband projects, or partner with other companies to provide high-speed internet service to members.
Co-op officials say in a statement that they’re well positioned to do this for internet, just as they did for electricity in rural New Hampshire decades ago. The COVID-19 pandemic brought the need for high-speed internet into focus, according to the statement from the not-for-profit electric utility, which has headquarters in Plymouth.
A 2019 report found that more than 100 other rural electric co-ops have expanded into broadband nationwide.
New Hampshire Broadband Advocates, a grassroots group, praised the vote. "This is the second time in four months that Co-op members have told the board and management in no uncertain terms that they want and expect the member-owned utility to help fill the region's painful broadband gap," Richard Knox, chair of the group, said in a statement.