House Bill 1505
UPDATE - HB 1505 Passed by Texas Legislature
Thank you to our URECC and other co-op members for making their concerns heard to their local politicians. HB 1505 has been passed by Texas Legislature. Electric cooperatives showed much concern that the expense of replacing poles due to the extra weight and wear & tear of lines attached by broadband companies would be absorbed by cooperative members. An electric cooperative is owned exclusively by its members with the sole agenda of providing electricity to its members. If an electric co-op grants permission to add additional utilities' lines to these poles, the co-op must be compensated in a way that it will not cost members additional funding for more frequent pole replacement. With this being said, the legislators added a pole replacement fund, for expenses to be reimbursed for pole replacement, which will be a necessity due to added weight to the poles.
URECC and other electric cooperatives will be monitoring the rural broadband pole attachments closely and openly dispute any act that is believed will cost electric cooperative members additional expense. We feel rural broadband is a necessity now, and are excited at communication technologies being established in rural areas. We stand behind our concerns that the rural broadband system should be built and established fairly, not at URECC members' expense.
The following are previous posts and articles...
The following articles and press releases were all posted before the acceptable amendments were made to the bill. Cooperatives now deem the bill as acceptable if no additional changes are made. We have left these postings on this page for you to see the progress that has been made due to Cooperative Members making their voices heard to local, state, and federal politicians.
URECC strongly supports rural broadband throughout our service area, but URECC members should not have to pay cable company's expenses to construct and maintain it.
Many of you by now are wondering why you are just now reading and learning about this. Over the past year or so, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provided access to billions of dollars (purportedly some $20.4 billion last year), taxpayer / rate-payer dollars, to companies interested in delivering much needed high-speed data to rural America. URECC investigated such an option itself, as we have always been interested in enhancing data services in the rural areas of Northeast Texas. In our review of the process in which these billions of dollars were provided through the FCC, it appears that any awards under the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) must be fully delivered to each area awarded within ten years, with a majority of the buildout completed in six years. As you might imagine, this is a monumental task and one that would require substantial investment dollars beyond the award, and frankly, one that seems almost insurmountable in some respects.
URECC determined that participation in such an effort was not reasonable or fiscally responsible for itself, and you, the members, and we have therefore been investigating other options to provide a much-needed, more affordable, and timely service to Northeast Texas without the government strings and deadlines. One company did, however, participate in the process and was able to submit a bid low enough that it succeeded in obtaining a purported $23.3 Million in taxpayer /rate-payer dollars to meet the challenge just in the URECC territory. That company is Charter Communications. If Charter is successful in building out a system that can provide service to our members, that will be a good thing. But it also appears that much more capital will be needed to make this formidable goal a reality within the six-to-ten-year time period required by the award. URECC's study indicated it would take some $100 Million for our territory alone. That $100 million would be funded by
What is HB 1505?
Texas House Bill 1505 is a bill that proposes broadband be constructed throughout rural Texas by cable companies attaching lines to electric cooperative poles.
Many URECC members made their voices heard last month by calling local politicians and voicing their objections. Additional negotiations were called because of your actions. Please continue to make the calls and ask why this legislation is still being proposed to take money from rural citizens the legislators should represent?
Why are electric cooperatives opposed to this bill?
The list of reasons to object to this bill is long, but the primary reason URECC opposes this bill is that it will cost URECC members money... and very likely, increase rates.
Just some of the financial expenses include hourly wages for linemen and repairmen to repair and inspect cooperative power poles that these cable companies will be attaching to, drastically decreasing the life expectancy of poles due to increased weight, along with extra wear and tear on pre-existing equipment. There will also be the additional cost of adding more poles per mile of line to help support the added weight of cable company equipment. (As a note, replacing a pole costs between $1000 to $1500 per pole.)
These are just a few of the expenses co-op members WILL be responsible for. The large cable companies accepted huge grants to establish rural broadband. Why is this legislation proposed that would make electric co-op members pay money out of their pockets to do the job cable companies have already been paid to do?