Broadband Internet Service in Hancock County in the Courts


August 24, 2020                                                                                                                                                 Home

There is general agreement that access to the internet is essential for the lives of almost everyone.  This was true even before the coronavirus, and it is even more true now.  School in Hancock County is now online, much medical communication is done on line, and people are working online at home.  PVEC Member Voices supports the importance of providing high speed internet service to all members of the cooperative.

In 2010 the US Department of Agriculture provided a grant of $24.5 million to Sunset Communications (now Point Broadband) in Duffield to provide high speed internet. This project originated in Duffield, then went through Lee County to Tazewell, and returned to make a loop through the eastern end of Hancock County.   

Sunset leased poles from Powell Valley Electric Cooperative (PVEC) to run the fiber line. In 2018, Sunset Communications received a $1.3 million grant from the state of Tennessee to expand this service to almost 600 homes in Hancock County and a neighboring piece of Claiborne County.  

In 2019, Point Broadband (PB) bought Sunset Communications.  PB successfully completed the Hancock County project and has continued to expand their service area since then.  Besides their own staff, Point Broadband (PB) has contracted with various crews (including PVEC crews) to run the fiber.

Also in 2020, PVEC entered the world of high speed internet service, with its PVEC Fiber .   PVEC installed its initial lines in areas where there was no fiber and has expanded out since then.

About a month or two ago PB announced that PVEC was no longer allowing PB crews to access its poles and that their workers had been harassed by PVEC workers out in the field.  In its press release, PB stated that as a result, they cannot install new service to people in Hancock County or even service existing customers if it requires their crews to work on PVEC poles.

PVEC has made no public statements on this problem.  Previous comments indicated that the contract between PVEC and PB (actually with Sunset Communications and taken over by PB) requires a PVEC staff person be on site at the pole when fiber is being installed by PB.  PVEC states that this has not happened and claims that improper installation by PB crews in some places has resulted in possibly unsafe conditions for PVEC linemen working on the poles.

SO, WHAT GIVES?  THE PROBLEM IS IN COURT, so it is very difficult to get answers to “why”, “how come”, “when”.   WHAT IS CLEAR is that people here in the county need access to high speed internet:  for school, for work, for telehealth, and media communication.  In the interest of the community, this should be resolved through negotiations – not legal actions.  Member owners need fiber now, not years after a legal process runs it course.

Note:  This article was not part of the series, RURAL ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES IN THE 21ST CENTURY.  It was deemed too political to publish as an article by the paper.  Mr. Kornrich paid for an ad in the paper so that the information could be published.

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