A mighty chorus of voices has been raised in the halls of
power in Richmond, as electric cooperative member-consumers have phoned,
e-mailed and written their delegates and state senators, asking them to
defeat the big cable company bill, HB 1439 (House version) and SB 890
(Senate version of the same bill). If it passes, this bill would prevent
your electric cooperative from recovering its costs when cable companies
attach their lines to your cooperative’s poles.
These pole attachments are nothing new. For decades, cable
companies have attached their lines to cooperative poles. They’ve paid a fee
that was mutually agreed-upon between the parties, a fee that until now has
allowed the cooperatives to cover their costs for allowing these
attachments. This system has worked well for decades.
Now, however, the cable companies want the General
Assembly to mandate that they pay less, which would allow them to increase
their profit margins while you subsidize their operations.
This is not right and not fair, and frankly is an affront
to the 500,000 Virginians whose homes and businesses are served by an
electric cooperative. Please know that the leaders of Virginia’s 13 electric
cooperatives are fighting tenaciously to defeat this bill. And that’s where
you come in — nothing is more effective in influencing a legislator than
hearing from his or her constituents. We ran a lot of information on this
important topic in the January issue, and the response from our readers was
But as this editorial is being written in mid-January, the
issue is heating up, the cable bill is still alive, and the big cable
companies are pouring their considerable resources into trying to convince
your delegate and your senator to pass their bill. Their bill benefits no
one but the big cable companies themselves.
And their benefit will be our — and your — loss. As
not-for-profit utilities, electric cooperatives MUST operate at cost, and of
course if there are funds left over they are later returned to you, the
member-consumers. Because of our not-for-profit structure, we must be able
to fully recover the costs of allowing the big cable companies to attach
their lines to our — actually, your — poles. And if those costs are not
fully recovered, then cooperative member-consumers have to make up the
So if the big cable company bill passes, it could end up
costing Virginia’s electric cooperatives and our member-consumers about $3
million a year, and this would not be just a one-year loss to you and your
fellow cooperative member-consumers, but it would be a loss that would recur
year after year after year.
Again, the best defense against a bad bill passing is you
and your neighbors. If you have not yet contacted your delegate and your
state senator, please do so today. If you’ve contacted them, please contact
them again. If you still have last month’s issue, use the “2011 Virginia
State Legislative Guide” inside to find contact information for your
delegate and state senator.
Please be sure to visit a special website,
www.CableWinsYouLose.com, for more information and for ways to get involved.
You may also go to the Virginia General Assembly’s
website, http://legis.state.va.us/ and in the upper right corner of the home
page click on “Who’s My Legislator.” Once you enter your home address, then
the name and contact information for your delegate and senator will be
listed for you.
You may also call the legislative information phone
numbers for assistance: the Virginia Senate number is (888) 892-6948 and the
House of Delegates number is (877) 391-3228. If you would like to write a
letter or send a postcard to your representatives, the Virginia Senate
address is: Senate of Virginia, P.O. Box 396, Richmond, VA 23218; the House
of Delegates address is: House of Delegates, P.O. Box 406, Richmond, VA
Please add your voice to thousands
your fellow electric cooperative member-
consumers across the Commonwealth. Help stop the big,
out-of-state cable companies from taking advantage of you and your
neighbors. In striking a blow against this transparent effort by big cable
to increase their profits by increasing your electric costs, you’ll also be
striking a telling blow for the power of the democratic process.