A bill introduced in Tennessee by State Senator Mark Green and Representative Andy Holt was intended to create an extension to electric cooperatives of restrictions regarding smart meters. The bill, which ended up not moving forward past initial committee stages, would have prohibited an electric or natural gas utility from installing a smart meter on or in a customer's residence, business, or structure without the customer's written and signed consent, and also would have prohibited the utility from discontinuing service to a customer if the customer declined.
Also of interest to coops in the state of Tennessee was State House and Senate approval of legislation that will ensure efficient use of cooperative infrastructure for the provision of telecommunications and broadband services.
As highlighted by the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association (TECA), after passage of the Broadband Accessibility Act in 2017, electric cooperatives were allowed to sell retail broadband services for the first time in their history. However, as many co-ops began to examine the possibilities a significant stumbling block to providing these services needed to be removed.
The fastest route to building broadband networks is for a cooperative to utilize its existing poles and routes of electric line for installation of new fiber-optic cables. However many of those routes cross private property, where the easement allowing access to the property was either prescriptive or limited to the provision of electric energy.
This same issue has been the subject of significant litigation in Missouri, so TECA’s government relations team set out to change state law. Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston) and Representative Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) filed legislation to ensure that any easement used by a cooperative for the provision of electric energy could also be used for the co-op’s secondary purposes.
TECA concluded “thankfully, the General Assembly listened and passed Senate Bill 1646. After consideration by seven committees as well as the full House and Senate, the bill was approved unanimously. While other states have struggled with this issue, this legislation serves as a fantastic example of how electric cooperative’s unified voice can make a real difference at the Capitol.”
More information is available at: Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.