Cable giants and Mississippi electric co-ops battle over federal broadband dollars

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As millions more federal dollars flow to Mississippi for expanding broadband internet access, large cable and telecom companies and rural electric cooperatives are already sparring over the money. During two days of state Senate Energy Committee hearings, officials from both sides laid out their cases for how they could best provide more rural high-speed internet access. At issue is about $162 million the state is expected to receive as part of the American Rescue Plan Act that can be used for broadband expansion projects — plus hundreds of millions more expected to soon be earmarked for Mississippi internet expansion. In 2019, the Mississippi Legislature passed a law allowing electric cooperatives to provide internet service — an effort to expand broadband access in a poor, rural state where an estimated 40 percent of the state lacked access. Proponents said large cable and telecom companies were failing to expand service into rural areas because it wasn’t profitable enough. However, cable and telecom providers say they have spent millions in private funds expanding internet service in Mississippi, and that they shouldn’t be cut out of government funding for expansion.

Cable giants, Mississippi electric cooperatives battle over federal broadband dollars