Stop Big Cable From Increasing Your Electric Bill

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor

Richard Johnstone

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 wonderful.

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 difference.

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 23218.

Please add your voice to thousands of  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.


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