PLYMOUTH, NH (May 28, 2020) – On May 21, New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) members began receiving their ballots for the 2020 Board of Directors election. This year, in addition to selecting three directors to join the Co-op’s 11 member board, members are also being asked to decide if the purpose for which NHEC exists should be changed.

A question has been placed on the ballot through member petition to change NHEC’s founding documents to include “facilitating access to broadband internet for members” as one of the reasons the Co-op was formed. NHEC is a democratically-controlled electric cooperative, and the participation of its members in its governance is vital. That participation includes the ability to propose changes in how NHEC is governed or conducts business.

NHEC’s Board of Directors is charged with considering member proposals and recommending to the full membership whether to support or oppose the proposed changes.  In this case, after full consideration of the proposal, the Board of Directors voted 7-3, with one abstention, to recommend that the proposed change not be approved by NHEC’s members.

NHEC, and its Board of Directors, fully support the expansion of broadband service throughout the Co-op’s service territory, and have directed NHEC’s management to facilitate and support broadband expansion. However, the Board did not support adding a new purpose to NHEC’s Certificate of Organization because of a number of concerns, including the potential to divert resources from the Co-op’s existing core focus on delivering safe, reliable, affordable electric service to its members.

NHEC has taken many steps to support the expansion of broadband over the last several years. In 2018, NHEC commissioned an analysis and business model proposal on the development of a broadband system. This proposal was judged to be too costly and would have put NHEC’s finances and electric system at risk. While the Board elected not to build a broadband network, NHEC has pursued other ways to support broadband expansion, including engaging in extensive discussions with consultants, broadband providers, municipal groups, the NH Broadband Investment Initiative, the University System of New Hampshire, and others active in the industry. The primary purpose of these efforts has been to make it as widely known as possible that NHEC supports the expansion of broadband service to all its members, and that it stands ready to facilitate, support and participate in creative efforts to make that happen.

More recently, in response to the interest expressed by members who support the ballot question, the Board of Directors created an ad hoc committee to explore if there are additional ways NHEC can further facilitate development of a broadband network by a third party in its service territory, without putting the Co-op’s finances and electric system at risk.

During the public discussion regarding the ballot petition, there has been confusion surrounding who may attach to NHEC’s utility poles, and how they do so. NHEC already allows any company, municipality, or other party to attach to its poles, including the broadband companies who are providing services to NHEC members today. This open access is required of all utility pole owners by New Hampshire law.

While the Board of Directors voted to recommend against creating a new purpose for the organization, NHEC has worked, and will continue to work, to support the expansion of broadband in the communities we serve.