N.H. Electric Co-op Rejects Broadband Bylaw Change, But Efforts May Continue | New Hampshire Public Radio

N.H. Electric Co-op Rejects Broadband Bylaw Change, But Efforts May Continue

Jun 18, 2020

Co-op line workers on the job in Bridgewater in 2016.
Credit NHEC Facebook

The New Hampshire Electric Co-op will not add a focus on broadband to its official mission, but supporters of the effort say they expect the attention on rural connectivity will continue.

Members voting in the co-op election that ended this week fell just short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass the proposal, which would have had the co-op agree to “facilitate access to broadband” alongside existing services.

Despite missing the required margin, co-op members did largely support the measure – the vote was 4,599 to 2,539.

A spokesman for the utility says turnout was a third higher this year than last, with many more ballots submitted online.

The co-op’s board opposed the bylaw change, but says they’re interested in broadband generally – especially in their largely rural service territory.

In the wake of the petition, the utility says it had contact with four companies about potentially partnering on the issue in future.

Broadband supporters, in a group known as NH Broadband, also won or kept three seats on the co-op's board. One newly elected member is Benton selectman William Darcy. 

"[F]ew if any of the 100 or so electric cooperatives around the country that have implemented broadband have changed their charters to do so. It’s clearly not needed,” Darcy says in a press release. “The NHEC members have spoken. They want their cooperative to deliver broadband.”

His group says they expect the issue to come up at the co-op's annual meeting, set to be held online next Monday.

This story has been updated to include a statement from broadband supporters.