Manager’s Message — March 2022

Services to Rural Communities

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Debi WilsonLiving in rural Oregon provides many with beautiful natural surroundings. Yet, as has been true for many years, it also comes with challenges. One of these challenges since the 1930s has been providing services to rural America. Providing electricity to rural areas was costly and prohibitive, so more than 80 years ago, the Rural Electrification Act was adopted to bring electricity to farms.

Fast forward to 2022. We have more modern-day conveniences, but providing services to rural communities still has challenges due to population density and necessary miles of line. A current hurdle in our service territory is access to high-speed internet. This is a challenge for many in rural communities across the United States, especially as more of our population works and accesses school at home.

Many members are excited at the prospect of broadband coming to the area, and we are excited, too! Members’ access to broadband gives them better internet services for work and play. Installing these services is a process we welcome and are required to allow. Recently, many say they have heard Lane Electric is not allowing companies to attach to our poles, denying you access to broadband. This statement is simply not true.

We have a process, as do all utilities, for attaching services to our poles. Our poles and electric services are regulated by the Oregon Public Utilities Commission, the PUC. Lane Electric—as with all Oregon utilities—is required to ensure the safety and integrity of our system. Utilities are liable for anything attached to their poles. Therefore, processes and engineering designs must be developed and followed.

Recently, Oregon made it easier to attach to electrical systems by allowing companies the rights to our easements. This takes out one step of the process and saves time and money. Yet, to build these systems there is still a process. Engineering designs must be submitted so Lane Electric can ensure system integrity. Sometimes, further engineering is necessary, and poles need to be replaced.

Pole attachments are a strain on many electric companies. Across the United States, electric service providers are hiring outside engineering firms to review these designs, as well as perform the post inspections to ensure there are no PUC violations. It is Lane Electric’s job to protect our community by following safety guidelines. We also want to protect our members’ electric rates, as these processes can be expensive and the fines from safety violations can be costly.

Members, we want you to know we fully support and allow pole attachments. You, as well as any service provider, can find our pole attachment processes on our website. We have a duty to serve you and do what is best for all Lane Electric members.

Debi Wilson