The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC)on June 19 approved a request by Midwest Energy for waivers from certain code of conduct rules – with one exception – to enable the co-op to deploy high-speed internet in unserved and underserved parts of Michigan.

“Michigan is a national leader in expanding broadband access, adoption and use,” said MPSC Chairman John D. Quackenbush. “Today’s order allows Midwest Energy Cooperative to provide reliable, high-speed internet to rural parts of Michigan, which provides those communities with access to a better business environment, more effective community and economic development, improved healthccare services, enhanced education, and more efficient government services.”

Midwest is in the process of deploying a 243-mile fiber communications ring through its utility substations and facilities to foster a “smarter” grid, help its members manage their energy use, and provide critical infrastructure to deploy broadband. The co-op is working with a coalition of allies and state/federal officials to bring high-speed internet to its service area.

The MPSC order approves the co-op’s waiver requests, except for “Rule II. A,” which requires an electric utility that offers both regulated and unregulated services to do so with the structural or functional separation needed to prevent cross-subsidization, information sharing, and preferential treatment between regulated and unregulated services. The approval is also conditioned upon the filing of an updated “Exhibit B” that clarifies the cost allocation between the co-op and its business unit providing the internet service.

The MPSC also directed Midwest to include, as part of its annual times interest earned ratio (TIER) report, a detailed account, with supporting documentation, of its business activities related to the waivers from the code of conduct. The first report is due in April 2015, and annually thereafter