Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
Rural Electric Co-ops as Reluctant Warriors for Broadband - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 249
As we continue to cover the growing movement of rural electric cooperatives to bring high quality Internet networks to their members, we wanted to bring Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts back on the show. Alyssa was last on the show for episode 109 and has since moved from the Utilities Telecom Council to Pedernales Electric Co-op in Texas.
Though Pedernales is not considering a major broadband investment, Alyssa's insights from her years working with many electric utilities are valuable in understanding what electric co-ops have to consider before making a network investment.
We start off by discussing the recent legislation in Tennessee that finally allows electric co-ops to offer Internet access before we move on to the real considerations a general manager has to examine before getting into telecom. We also talk quite a bit about the interplay between rural electric co-ops and telecommunications companies.
This show is 32 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed.
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.
Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.
Thanks to Break the Bans for the music. The song is Escape and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: I think also as you watch come cooperatives have great successes you'll see others follow.
Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 249 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute of Local Self Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts is Vice President of Communications and Business Services for Pedernales Electric Cooperative. Pedernales serves a large region in Central Texas. In this episode, Christopher gets some honest perspective from someone who can offer unique insight from the world of cooperatives. They discuss a range of issues, including new Legislation from Tennessee, and how it will effect cooperatives. Alyssa and Christopher also get into the challenges that cooperatives must consider, when determining whether or not to offer connectivity to members. You can learn more about Pedernales at pec.coop. Now here is Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts and Christopher talking about cooperatives and the challenges of deciding whether or not to offer connectivity.
Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell. Today I'm back with Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts, the Vice President of communication and business services for Pedernales Electric Co-op. Welcome back.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: Thanks Chris, Thanks for having me.
Christopher Mitchell: For people who have been long time listeners, Alyssa has been on the show before, although she was not with Pedernales before. Alyssa you have a lot of experience working with rural utilities and thinking about broadband, tell us a little bit about Pedernales. It's one of the nation's smaller electric co-ops, if I remember correctly.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: Yes it is actually the nation's largest electric cooperative. We have about 289,000 meters at this point. Last year we added 12,000 meters, so we will hit the 300,000 meter mark this year and for those of you who don't know, 12,000 meters is about the size of an average cooperative. We're adding basically a co-op every year and our territory spans, it's almost the size of the state of Massachusetts to put it in perspective.
Christopher Mitchell: Yeah.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: It's big.
Christopher Mitchell: I think that 3 out of 4 of the municipal electric companies have 7500 meters or something like that. So you guys, you're almost like Amazon. You're not only growing, you're growing faster than everything else.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: Yes, it is an incredible rate of growth which is a good set of challenges, but it creates challenges none the less.
Christopher Mitchell: Right. Now Pedernales itself is not getting into broadband anytime soon. But I wanted to bring you back on for a candid conversation about some of the challenges, the realistic discussion about what's happening with co-ops as they are considering building a network. Not to say we haven't had realistic discussions before, but Alyssa, I've always enjoyed your unvarnished, I'm going to tell it to you straight kind of approach. But we had some breaking news that we can cover as well. What's happening in Tennessee, so maybe we'll start there. You know, Tennessee is about to sign this bill. What are you thinking about this bill about rural broadband in Tennessee?
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: Well I think the fact that they finally taken the handcuffs off electric cooperatives in Tennessee is fantastic. I know that there are several co-ops in Tennessee that have been talking about this for the last couple of years, but they kind of been living in this world of uncertainty, if I do this will the legislature slap me down later, if I do this am I going to make this investment and then find that I'm not allowed to do this? Which you've seen municipal electrics have that situation so they've really been living in a world of uncertainty wanting to provide this service to their members but just cautious, and there's not anything wrong with being cautious so I think that was a big win. The idea that muni's aren't able to come out beyond their boundaries and serve unserved folks in rural America is a sad day for Tennessee for sure.
Christopher Mitchell: Right, now in Tennessee the law that was prohibiting your electric co-ops from doing fiber was really at odds with Federal law and arguably in violation of Federal law, it would have been struck down if the co-ops had wanted to make a big court case about it, but I think the co-ops are more focused on what they could do locally rather than having to hire lawyers and get involved in a protracted legal dispute.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: That really is the issue. So do you want cooperatives spending money to fight this in the courts, or do you want cooperatives saying, hey let's put our resources into our communities and actually build a network. So I think that again was a win for the co-ops, because now they can put their resources where they choose to instead of again ending up in a large legal battle with these behemoth for profit corporations that, they're good at this and they don't mind spending a ton of money on it. So I think that's the equalizer though when you talk about electric cooperatives and big tel co, big cable. I always say they have the money and the lobbyists but we have the people, and that matters.
Christopher Mitchell: I think that's right, now I just wanted to note for people who have been following our website and maybe our press releases where we've gotten a lot of coverage we've been just blasting this law coming out of Tennessee, which the governor is still expected to sign as we are recording this show, and probably will have signed by the time it airs. Because of that limitation of the electric municipal providers because it just doesn't make any sense. But I am very excited that co-ops will be able to expand with fiber. The last thing I wanted to cover though was this kind of intrigue about whether or not they would be allowed to offer television services, and I thought you could tell us a little bit about why that's important, because it seemed like it almost was lost in the larger discussion about broadband.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: Well it is. The thing about the television services, I think you're seeing, so a newer generation, the younger generation, and they're younger than I am, but they're cutting that cord when it comes to cable. They're going to a pure, digital format and they're fine with that. But then everyone else is still kind of like, man I really like my cable TV. And so when you take that option off the table, it is very hard to get folks to sign up for your broadband service. So by inserting that prohibition initially, you were basically crippling the cooperatives or limiting their take rates or making it much, much harder to make these projects feasible as AT&T very well knows, because when they made the argument with the FCC that they should be allowed to sell DirecTV, that was their exact argument. So it's kind of ironic that they're own argument came back to bite them.
Christopher Mitchell: It's not the only time that could happen, so I'm glad that it does happen from time to time. And it's worth noting of course that AT&T owns a lot of rural areas by virtue of the fact that they own DirecTV and so for them trying stop the co-ops from providing television service is just yet another way in which they're trying to establish a monopoly for their own services.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: Yes, and it's funny because every time you see this crop up in a state legislature, it comes out like it's a for broadband competition bill, but as you read the bill it becomes very, very obvious that all they're trying to do is hold onto their monopoly.
Christopher Mitchell: Now let's talk about some of the challenges and some of the reasoning that happens when a co-op is thinking about whether or not to get into the fiber game. One of the things that you've identified is just the comfort level with where they are. You have an entity that has done a good job providing electricity, in fact we've actually been passing a book around our office talking about rural electrification and the early co-ops, and it is amazing how much better they were than the private companies in the few areas in which private companies deigned to invest in rural areas. So these are rural electrics that have done a really good job of providing service in hard to reach areas. I may criticize them from time to time with long term power purchase agreements on coal, but the fact is the lights generally stay on. And they're very comfortable in that business area.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: And I think that is a big issue, and it's something that we talk about a lot in the co-op world. We went from this, you think about in the 1930's when, and 1940's when rural electric cooperatives started providing service. I mean this was a territory again no one wanted to serve. For profit electric companies were like, can't be done, won't be done, and kept providing all these obstacles to make this happen. Rural groups got together, rural community leaders and they said we're going to do this, we're going to take this risk. So we have kind of gone from this high risk, high reward model that we originally created into a very comfortable low risk, still high reward, but low risk model. And so I think when you make that transformation over time, I think it's hard to go wow, we've got a lot at stake here. I think you're also talking about in terms of investment, some of these investments into fiber will equal or outpace what the cooperative has invested in electric infrastructure, and I think that causes a moment of pause too. And then you have this second idea that should rate payer funds for electricity be used to provide broadband service, and be used to make those initial investments into infrastructure. I think the cooperatives that are doing broadband right now have done a very good job of segmenting that, saying you know we're going to use our good credit and our good faith as the electric cooperative to leverage for funding, but your rates will not be subsidizing the broadband business. Instead they've taken this model where they're almost utilizing their broadband service to help subsidize the electric side of the business to keep rates low. Again I think it's one of those decisions where you have companies that are so stable and so comfortable that it's very hard for them to go out into this world that is very competitive, very cutthroat. Every other day we're watching a pole attachment bill pop up across the country, you watch trying to limit cooperative broadband trying to limit municipal broadband. I think it's also do you want to poke that bear. Do you want to get into a dog fight with these large corporations and I think it's something that cooperatives have to weigh, but sometimes I worry that they weigh too much into that.
Christopher Mitchell: It's something that is very complicated, and although when I weigh a lot of those complications and I try to think about it neutrally from the perspective of a person living in these areas I generally think the co-ops should be at the minimum seriously considering it and penciling out the numbers, and maybe just starting in the areas where it looks best, but I want to pull out a couple of things you said and just dive into them quick. I think one is, recognizing that this is riskier than electricity.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: It is.
Christopher Mitchell: The demand for electricity was eventually much greater. I don't know that it was immediately, but in rural areas where co-ops are doing this I think we're seeing take rates in initial areas that are in the low 40's to upper 60's depending on the territory. And I think electricity take rates were higher in the times when that was introduced.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: Yes, that would be correct. You know we talk about the low 40's to low 60's and nothing more, that's a pretty good take rate.
Christopher Mitchell: It is, right.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: When you're talking about cox communications service. And again you have to adjust your thinking. You know, I'm saying you have to adjust what you're modeling this on. It's worth noting that that is true. But again, it's out of our area of expertise, it's out of our comfort zone and I think that's a hard thing, but I come back to everyday another cooperative is doing a study, is taking a look at this, and I think it's going to continue to grow where we're seeing an incredible amount of retirements in our industry. I think if I were two years, three years, four years from retirement I would have a hard time making a decision to explore something like this.
Christopher Mitchell: Yes.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: It's hard to make those decisions when you're going to leave this for someone else, so I think as we continue to see our industry change and evolve and these large amount of retirements. I think also as you watch some cooperatives have great successes, Midwest Energy up in Michigan, Co-Mo in Missouri, Bark Electric down in Virginia, I mean you've got this wide variety of cooperatives that are really succeeding, I think you'll see others follow. But they just want to be sure.
Christopher Mitchell: Right. I've been saying that I feel like this is a viral spread. I got some of this talking with John Chambers at Conexon where it seems like, I see this in municipal broadband as well, where if you live in a small community and no one for a hundred miles around you has good Internet access, you're okay. Everyone's kind of upset, frustrated, wants something better but you're not losing businesses at the same rate where as if 30 miles away you can get very high quality Internet access. Then suddenly you're in a situation where you have to do something. And I think that as we see a few of these rural electric co-ops doing it across their entire footprints, it's just going to put pressure on those around them to do it because otherwise we're going to see population shifts. And that's a real threat to the existence of the cooperative which if electricity demand declines then they're really going to be in a bad spiral.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: I absolutely agree, and I think even those that don't have someone next to them doing this, we're seeing population shifts already. I think it was 2010 the census had for the first time showed that there was a decline in population in rural America. They attributed this to a number of factors. Kids grow up, they go to college, they leave their community, they can't find jobs back in their community, so what do they do? They move to the city, they move to suburbia, they move to another community that has jobs available. Baby boomers are retiring. They used to retire in droves back to rural America. They are not retiring back to rural America now. Why? Because they're used to having these services. They want access to the Internet. They want to be able to see their grandkids. They want to be able to communicate with them. They want to be able to read the news online. They want to be able to watch Netflix. When you take all of these things into place, you're going to continue to see those shifts, absolutely. But I think it's coming everywhere, I don't think it's just going to be in those areas where the next store has it, I think we're going to continue to see that shift throughout all of rural America. It's a ripple affect. It may be more obvious, when 30 miles down the road you got it, but I think everybody's feeling it right now.
Christopher Mitchell: I think you're right. But I do think that we'll see more motivation perhaps in areas that face that immediate neighbor.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: Oh absolutely.
Christopher Mitchell: But we agree we're just emphasizing different aspects of it.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: Yeah.
Christopher Mitchell: I want to talk a little bit about the financial challenges. And I'll set this up by noting that another difference is that when we establish the rural electric cooperatives they got territory. They got a monopoly on that territory. Having a monopoly on services in a territory enables you to get financing in ways that you cannot get if you're a competitor, even if you're competing against a very weak, large company that has terrible customer service, it may be difficult to get financing. Now some cooperatives may be able to leverage their electric base as security for financing. And some may choose not to do that, some may be prevented from doing that, I'm guessing, because for instance if you're buying power from the Tennessee Valley Authority I don't think they'll let you just cross subsidize in that way. As we talk about financing, let me know, did I sum that up fairly correctly?
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: You're absolutely right it is a big issue. And again, some are not willing to do it and some are not able. And I think there's also this idea of, it's a little bit riskier so the interest rates go up, and every time the interest rate goes up it makes the loan or the investment a little less feasible. I think you're also seeing some power struggles at this point even within R.U.S., and where they can finance and how they can finance. Then you've got CoBank and CFC as alternatives and other funding mechanisms. But traditionally co-ops, we borrow from R.U.S.. But now you've got this conundrum because the rural telcos borrow from R.U.S. too.
Christopher Mitchell: Yeah, and we're seeing real efforts by some of the rural telcos to say that it is unfair for them to have to compete with rural electric company. There's one instance in which I can't divulge who it is because they've wanted to keep it quiet, but there's an electric company that's building out to it's territory and it got some rural utility service funds to use in that territory. Maybe for smart grid, maybe for broadband, I'm not entirely aware of it, but the point is they decided to expand to a near-by development that was not in their territory, and is not getting any access to the R.U.S funds but they were nearby, and they really wanted service from the electric co-op and so the electric co-op decided to go ahead and do it. Rural telephone company, very upset about this and saying it was totally unfair, and so trying to basically push R.U.S. to stop giving money to rural electrics for broadband. Unfortunately I think two different entities that both care about rural America, kind of going at it with one of the few sources of money that is out there.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: I would move your kind of to two rural entities, one of whom kind of cares about Rural America--
Christopher Mitchell: Well some of these rural telephone companies--
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: I feel pretty vocal on this.
Christopher Mitchell: Right, no and I feel free. I want to be totally honest, if you think I'm wrong, tell me I'm wrong, it's the only way I'm going to learn. Some of these rural telephone companies are telephone cooperatives though, and like any other entity, there are good apple and bad apples. We're not talking about CenturyLink.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: I absolutely agree, and this is the thing - there are some rural telcos who have done a great job of re-investing the taxpayer funds back into their networks to provide good service. I absolutely agree with that. But there are many who have not been taking that subsidy from the state and from the Federal Government all of which is funded by you and me and every other person in this country as a line item on our phone bill, and they have not been re-investing. In fact, I would love for someone to take a look at how much money these rate of return carriers have gotten from the state and the Federal Government, and plot out what that would have built in terms of fiber network.
Christopher Mitchell: Oh I so want to do, it's so hard to get this money, this information, it's just ridiculous.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: Yes, it is, and they make it hard for a reason. And I will tell you having looked at this from a couple different state perspectives, you'll probably want to take a shower when you're done reading.
Christopher Mitchell: Yeah.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: Because what they could have done with this funding is incredible and I will say to these folks, fair is fair, the fair comes to town once a year. We're all grownups, let's move on. And second of all, had you been providing affordable competitive service, we wouldn't be looking anywhere near you to provide service, because that's not what we do. But you don't get to cherry pick the areas that have some density, and provide them, and leave everybody else behind. Because we are going to come and compete with you in those areas, because that's how we further fund rolling out into those areas that you have left behind for years, and years, and years. So my advice to the rate of return carriers, as much as the same of my advice to the price cap carriers; do it, provide the good service, provide affordable service, and you won't have any problem with us. But if you're going to continue to collecting money from our members, and from rural America, and from everybody else in this country, and not provide the service, well you should know we're probably coming for you.
Christopher Mitchell: Now it's worth just noting that when you say rate of return carriers you're generally talking about the smaller providers, the price cap carriers or the big companies, Frontier and CenturyLink, AT&T, those sorts of folks, for people that aren't as familiar with those terms.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: Yes, electro cooperatives are not federally subsidized. We get low interest loans, but it's not a grant giving handout where they've rolled up money from rural America and from urban American and said here, we're going to re-distribute this pot of money for this.
Christopher Mitchell: Forever.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: Right, forever! Our loan programs are fully paid for by the interest we pay on these loans, and so there's this whole idea that it's not fair, and again I would say, if you're providing the service, we don't want any part of it, you provided it. But when you look at this Country and you go okay 4 out of 10 rural American's don't have service, somebody's not providing the service and taken the money, and that's a problem.
Christopher Mitchell: And this is where I get in my sort of small government, proper financial approach hat. I get frustrated with how government programs have been designed historically, because with electricity there was this a sense of we're going to be fiscally responsible, and we're going to be and we're going to give capital loans. Perhaps there was some level of subsidy in the early years, I don't know whether or not the loans are below market anymore, if they were a little bit below market to begin for the electric co-ops, but there was never a sense that ongoing subsidies for electricity. But telephone -
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: No, correct.
Christopher Mitchell: There always has been. And in part, it's because of the higher operating costs. When you subsidize crappy technology like DSL in rural areas, it's that you are locking in a high operating cost which then also has to be subsidized. And so if you look at over 10 years of what we're going to get with 10 mega-bit by one mega-bit DSL from AT&T or CenturyLink or whatever, we're going to be paying far more for that than it would have cost to do fiber, because with fiber you no longer need that operating subsidy in most cases.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: Yeah, that's absolutely right, I would include the rate of return carriers in that argument. Again, I would say look at their funding levels. How much have they been getting and have they been building their business on what's best for rural America, or have they been building their business based on this rate of return model, this idea that the more you spend the more you get and not necessarily making good, economic decisions with the best interest of their members and/or customers at heart.
Christopher Mitchell: So let's turn to one of the challenges that I think is going to be facing co-ops, co-ops like yourself at Pedernales if you ever were to go into this, which is when you have a population split across suburbs, exurbs, and then perhaps farmers, just to simplify rural, really spread out member-owners of the cooperative. It seems to me that we are seeing some conflicts between co-ops where a board might be dominated by suburban interests a little bit more, and less willing to invest in connecting everyone. And I fear that we may see the co-op, some co-ops, lose that sense of what brought them together in the first place, which was to make sure that the needs of everyone were ultimately met.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: Yeah, I can see that being a problem, that's kind of the unique aspect of P.E.C., our board is split up geographically, and they've drawn the lines, so we have a pretty good balance I think on our board of rural interests, and then our more maybe suburban/urban interests, so we aren't seeing that. What we're kind of seeing is this is a large investment, parts of our territory are really well served. I have Google fiber in my home and I'm a P.E.C. member. And let me tell you, love the Google. I just love it.
Christopher Mitchell: Just keep rubbing it in. Rub it in, yeah.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: But you know the problem is, you have to have some of this to be able to help subsidize as you head west in our territory. On this side of our territory we're very dense, there's a lot of population, there's a lot of business. But as you move west across our territory we get down to one or two homes per mile. No one can make that feasibly work on a stand-alone project. And that becomes a little bit of a problem too because you need this area where I live in southwest Austin, into Dripping Springs in the central Texas area. You need this to help make the other feasible. So it becomes harder and harder as we continue to watch big providers cherry pick. I would say to Google, I think it's fantastic that you're providing broadband service in these -
Christopher Mitchell: We just lost all audio. I don't know if you can still hear me?
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: Was it your end or my end?
Christopher Mitchell: No, it was our end. Our entire office. Again, this is the second time in a row that Comcast has disconnected us, we've had to reboot our business class service. It happened right after you were talking about how great your Google connection is, it's worth noting.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: Yeah. Oh yeah.
Christopher Mitchell: This is -
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: Which is so funny, I joked with you that maybe it was AT&T because I keep messing with them.
Christopher Mitchell: Nope, this is just standard run of the mill dealing with Comcast in a business environment. Oh yeah, once everyday it seems like lately we get disconnected and we have to reboot the old modem. At some point we're going to have to call them, at which point they'll explain to me that it's something on my end I'm sure.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: Yes.
Christopher Mitchell: For some reason it's their modem I have to reboot. We've rebooted every other piece of networking equipment. With that aside, which I hope Lisa keeps in the show, you were just describing the challenges of expanding west given the cost when you get down to the low densities.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: Yes, well that's the thing with Google fiber that I had kind of gotten off on a little bit of a tangent but I think it's worth exploring. Google is this great company, right? They basically challenge the status quo that people don't want fiber. People do want fiber. So I would say to Google, and I'm going to challenge them openly, why don't you keep exploring west? You've done this in this suburban and urban setting and you're having some successes, why don't you do something truly revolutionary and continue to press this model and push west. It's great that they can do it when you've got 40 and 50 and 60 homes per mile but why don't you keep rolling west for us and provide some great service because I think that the model has been proven over and over and over again. I'd love to see Google take on that challenge and do something truly revolutionary. Because, what they've done in urban and suburban America isn't really revolutionary. But do something really cool.
Christopher Mitchell: It does seem to be over though, unfortunately. There's been a number of people that have argued that yeah, that would be revolutionary up hear in Minnesota, I've seen a number of people in rural areas that were willing to do whatever it would take if Google would prove that there was a business case for building out to them. Which as you know -
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: They don't even have to prove it. The co-ops have proved it. So they're going to take credit again for something that's been proven.
Christopher Mitchell: Right, although it's worth noting, and this is something I think we can't emphasize enough, that a business case is different from business to business. A business case for a co-op is different in that a co-op want's to break even. A business case for AT&T, is that it has to make a killing. It's not enough just to be a little bit profitable, its shareholders are expecting increasing profit over time. It's worth noting for people that this is one of the reasons why we see co-ops being so successful in rural America, because it's the right tool for the right job.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: I absolutely agree, and I think it's the argument it's too expensive to do it in rural America, and I think you're point is well taken. It's not that it's too expensive, it's that your rate of return isn't enough. And there's a big difference between being too expensive and you can't make enough money off of it. And I would agree that a for profit company has different factors to take into account, but I would also argue that as a large corporation in this country, you have an obligation, and I think that obligation extends at times beyond your shareholders. It extends to the betterment and the good of America as a whole. Not everything is a bottom line.
Christopher Mitchell: Right and it's certainly a discussion that's popping up again and again. Interestingly I was just reading a book about a history of monopoly and economics, it was called Railroad Economics by Perlman, I think. It's a leftist economics case for why we don't need economics, because a lot of economists tend to be sellouts and just defend the power structure no matter what. I actually really like the tools economics provides but I'm getting a little bit deep just to make this point that well literally 100 years ago as we had the economy becoming taken over by large trusts and monopolies there was a sense that if you had a monopoly you had an obligation to do more than just figure out how to do well for your shareholders. That was called welfare capitalism, I think, was the term that was used in this case. I have to say I didn't find it particularly persuasive but it's a heck of a lot better if you have monopoly, if they are going to be doing something good. If they can't do anything about AT&T, well you certainly can't live with them just screwing us constantly.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: Right. And this is when our phone goes dead again.
Christopher Mitchell: Right. Well I've really enjoyed the conversation, and so I really appreciate your time once again to talk about some of these issues and I think for people who are still trying to figure out what's going on in rural America I hope this helps.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: Yeah, I think it's vitally important to the economy of our country. Imagine if we hadn't electrified rural America. OR what if we said to rural America you can only have two hours of power. Or you can only have enough power to do this or this. Would we be the great nation that we are? And I think we're at that tipping point with broadband. I think it's vital to the economic interests of our nation that we have this opportunity for everyone.
Christopher Mitchell: Yes, I absolutely agree. It's interesting, because if electricity didn't reach all of America it's possible electricity wouldn't be as important to us. We may have evolved in different directions with the way markets work and things like that. But by creating much larger markets we certainly led to advancements more quickly because we have increased productivity. And if we don't expand high quality Internet access to everyone, we won't be able to take full advantage of a high quality Internet. It will not be as good if we deny it to certain people, so there's a little bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy that we need to keep in mind as we're deciding how to connect folks or whether to cut them off effectively. Thank you so much, I hope you have a great weekend.
Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts: Thanks, you too Chris.
Lisa Gonzalez: That was Christopher and Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts, Vice President of Communications and Business services for Pedernales Electric Cooperative in Texas. We have transcripts for this and other community broadband bits podcasts available at MuniNetworks.org/BroadbandBits. Email us at podcast@MuniNetworks.org with your ideas for the show. Follow Chris on Twitter, his handle is @communitynets. Follow MuniNetworks.org stories on Twitter. The handle is @MuniNetworks. Subscribe to this podcast and all of the podcasts in the ILSR family on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever else you get your podcasts. Never miss out on our original research, Subscribe to our monthly newsletter at ILSR.org. Thank you to break the bands for the song Escape, licensed through creative commons, and thanks for listening to episode 249 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.