Letter: MPE is proud to force members to subsidize internet service
I suspected a year ago that Mountain Parks Electric (MPE) decided to build a fiber-optic backbone system for broadband internet service and to charge all costs to electric customers based on their bragging announcement at the annual meeting in May 2017 that recent construction cost estimates were down to only $3.8 million. Now of course they admit the 2018 estimate is only the “insignificant” amount of $6 to $7 million and they are proud to proceed to subsidize broadband internet service for rural areas. Too bad all of us 20,500 electric customers will have to pay several percent more in our electric rates to pay off the loans from RUS over the next 35-years. I also heard the GM of MPE admit at their recent annual meeting that they would probably have to hire a couple of new employees to operate and maintain this system. Not to worry, the electric customers can foot the bill for that too along with all the other unknown costs in the future. They will hope for some revenue from leasing capacity but know full well there is no realistic market to pay the costs.
I do not dispute MPE’s claim that they will use this backbone system, only they already built one that provides all the requirements for future “smart grid” technologies! It just doesn’t support broadband internet too. They have already deployed smart meters although they have not capitalized on the main benefits, e.g. providing hourly load data to customers and to customer service reps. They have also deployed SCADA to substations and to distribution devices, but still cannot remotely transfer load from one substation to another. I doubt they have added enhanced capabilities including outage management and automated vehicle location, but they do not need a fiber-optic backbone to add those. They already have 2-way communication to smart meters and could do load control or even real time pricing if they wanted. It will take smart decisions and good management to successfully deploy “smart grid” technologies that might actually benefit all customers.
Nope, the entire project is only needed to support broadband internet in rural areas and is a bad business decision. I will feel extremely honored to pay more for my electric service so that some rural customers might have future access to subsidized internet service. What a sad corruption of the cooperative business model this project reveals. No hard feelings, just the inconvenient truth as I know it.
Les Shankland, Grand County
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