Just as cooperatives electrified rural homes and businesses in the last century, they now play an essential role in bringing high-speed connectivity to rural America today.
The Michigan Legislature recently passed House Bills 4266 and 5266, which make it easier for electric co-ops to bring high-speed broadband access to their members.
Three of Michigan’s nine electric distribution co-ops (Midwest Energy & Communications, Great Lakes Energy and HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative) are currently deploying broadband, with two more co-ops (Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op and Thumb Electric Cooperative) actively studying its feasibility. The remaining distribution co-ops are planning or studying the use of fiber optic cable to improve electric service to member-owners and their communities.
Co-ops have used existing electric utility easements for broadband deployment in Michigan for the past five years. While there have been numerous cases in Michigan that support similar use, there have also been recent cautionary tales.
House Bill 4266 authorizes co-ops to deploy broadband infrastructure along existing electric easements, while House Bill 5266 offers consistent standards for pole attachments. Together, these bills are intended to encourage and enable electric co-ops to extend broadband access to rural areas, which will promote connectivity and create jobs.
This legislative change will ensure the uniform application of existing law, and ensure that Michigan’s electric co-ops can continue to use existing easements to extend broadband to homes and businesses in rural Michigan.
Alger Delta Cooperative Electric Association has completed the Rural Electric Safety Achievement Program (RESAP) sponsored by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Electric Association (NRECA) in Alexandria, Virginia.
RESAP is a national safety program in partnership with utility safety leaders and utilizes a framework for continuous improvement to improve safety performance and culture. The program is designed to recognize electric cooperatives for above-average safety performance.
Alger Delta submitted to a two-part process that took place over several months. One part consisted of an on-site evaluation by a team of trained and certified safety professionals from other utilities and the insurance industry. The observation team spent two days examining and evaluating Alger Delta’s facilities, vehicles and equipment, safety and security procedures, operational procedures, and interviewing employees regarding their knowledge and understanding of safety-related work practices.
Another part of the process involves submitting an application that examines and evaluates the documentation of our safety-related work practices, reporting procedures, safety and health policies, accident investigations, corrective measures, training, and other safety-related functions. The application portion evaluates the cooperatives’ documentation and records maintained over the past three years.
“The safety achievement program is notable because it requires teamwork from the board room to the custodian’s closet,” said Tom Harrell, Alger Delta’s CEO. “This program reviews our processes and procedures, but also the culture of safety we’re trying to foster. In this business, whether working on high voltage lines or stacking material in the warehouse, working safely must be a part of what we do, every day, all day,” Harrell added.
Harrell praised the total team effort and all the staff at Alger Delta for doing their part toward supporting the achievement process and evaluation; including Operations Manager Troy Tiernan and Technical Services Manager Shannon Priebe.
According to the NRECA, there are 547 electric cooperatives that have been recognized by the safety achievement program. Alger Delta is one of seven electric cooperatives in Michigan to complete the safety achievement program.