NH Electric Co-op members narrowly reject broadband proposal

But efforts to expand access appear likely to continue

Nheclogo CmykBy a narrow margin, members of the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative have voted down a proposal to add bringing broadcast access to the utility’s service area.

Proponents of the proposal – which called for the co-op to “facilitate access to broadband” in addition to its mission of providing electricity – needed to reach a two-thirds majority in voting that ended Tuesday. Instead, the proposal received 64.4% of the vote, 4,599 in favor to 2,539 opposed.

A spokesperson for the 84,000-member, Plymouth-based utility said turnout was a third higher this year than last.

The co-op’s board had opposed the change, saying that while its members “fully support the expansion of broadband service through the Co-op’s service territory,” by a 7-3 margin board members recommended voting the measure down because of “a number of concerns” related to adding a new purpose to the organizations’ certificate of organization. Among those concerns, were the “potential to divert resources” from the co-op’s core focus on delivering electric service to members.

But the close vote and accompanying election of new board members who he called “strong advocates” of broadband, indicates that the momentum is with supporters, Richard Knox, a co-op customer and proponent of the initiative, told the Concord Monitor.

“I think it’s likely to change the inclination of the co-op to do something in partnership with some broadband developer,” he said.

In fact, after the petition by broadband initiative supporters was submitted and as voting began, the utility said it had reached out to four companies about potentially partnering on the broadband expansion going forward.

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