To the Editor,

On July 1, every customer-member of Rappahannock Electric Cooperative will receive in their magazine “Cooperative Living” a proxy form that allows the member to cast a vote for three people to be on REC’s board of directors. This year, for the first time in recent memory, three reform candidates are running against the incumbents. The reform candidates are myself, Jack Manzari, from Region VII, Louisa; Andrea Miller, from Region VI; and Mike Biniek, from Region I. 

The reason we have put our names forward centers around REC’s lack of transparency, democratic process and pro-member positions.

The lack of transparency and other issues are described on the website RepowerREC.com. 

One of the most important positions of the reform candidates is REC’s inadequate response to the needs of its members for internet connectivity and speed of connectivity.

REC’s broadband position statement states: 

“REC’s board of directors recently approved funds to construct a fiber optic network for utility operations. When complete at the end of a six-year construction plan, this network of approximately 800 miles of fiber optic cable will connect over 130 endpoints (substations, radio towers, offices, etc.) across portions of the 22 counties served by REC.” 

The position statement goes on to indicate that other third parties will complete the connection to members. 

Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, a sister utility company, on the other hand, is taking the initiative to  connect their network directly to members. This is through an associated organization “Firefly,” which plans to make internet connection directly to all CVEC customers within five years at an extremely low rate of $50 per month. An excellent service will be available for $80 a month, which does not require a contract, other equipment expenses or fees, and provides telephone service for an additional $30 if desired. 

Which of these alternatives would you like? Your own self-governing cooperative or an intervening for-profit organization? Remember what happened with electricity: quality electric companies did not venture into rural communities where profit margins were inadequate. We needed the cooperatives to gain access to energy and electricity. The same is now happening with for-profit companies supplying internet to rural communities. 

The best plan is for the cooperatives to offer these connections directly. The reform candidates will attempt to change the position of REC to be more pro-member. Without good, affordable internet service, rural communities cannot compete fully in today’s world. Vote for the reform REC board candidates when your proxy ballot arrives in the mail on July 1. 

Jack Manzari

Mineral