Today, United States Vice President Kamala Harris visited the Plymouth headquarters of New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) to discuss the Co-op’s efforts to expand high-speed internet access to rural New Hampshire and highlight federal funding opportunities in the American Jobs Plan to support future investments.
Vice President Harris was joined by United States Senator Maggie Hassan, and met with NHEC representatives and Lempster Select Board Chair Phil Tirrell. Last year, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and appeals from its members, NHEC secured two grants from the Connecting New Hampshire Emergency Broadband Expansion Program. Those grants supported the construction of fiber-optic networks in Lempster, Colebrook, Stewartstown and Clarksville. Through its subsidiary NH Broadband, NHEC is now providing nearly 1,000 previously unserved members with access to high-speed internet.
Recalling NHEC’s mission to provide electricity to rural New Hampshire some 80 years ago, Vice President Harris encouraged the same spirit in extending rural access to broadband internet.
“In 1939 that pole was built and it’s still there,” she said, referring to the Co-op’s first electric pole set in Lempster, NH 82 years ago, “and why we’re here today is because of what you have been doing in this co-op.”
Part of the American Jobs Plan includes a proposed $100 billion in spending to increase access to broadband internet, Harris said.
“It’s the same thing that our country decided to do in 1936, saying let’s get electricity to everybody, and rural America should not be left out of that priority…This really is an incredible moment in our history. Not unlike what our country did with electricity, we can do with broadband, so let’s get it done.”
NHEC’s Board of Directors has adopted a goal of ensuring that all Co-op members have access to affordable, reliable, high-speed internet. NHEC is working to expand its current fiber optic networks, and identify additional funding opportunities and strategic partners.
“Thank you Vice President Harris for coming to Plymouth and putting a spotlight on the need for rural internet access,” said Tom Mongeon, Chair of NHEC’s Board of Directors. “It is encouraging to see attention being giving to the needs of our members at the highest levels of government. NHEC exists to serve our members and we are working hard to ensure that they have access to the high-speed internet they need.”
Steve Camerino, NHEC’s President and CEO, highlighted the Co-op’s work to provide broadband access to its members and stressed that electric cooperatives are ideally suited to help bridge the rural digital divide.
“We were honored to host Vice President Harris and appreciate her taking the time to learn more about NHEC and our work to expand broadband,” said Camerino. “Access to affordable, reliable, high-speed internet service is critical to our members and the communities we serve. Federal funding is vital to support our efforts, and it is exciting to hear about the opportunities to expand rural broadband in the American Jobs Plan.”