SCS/SB 820 - This act modifies provisions relating to broadband communications services provided by rural electric cooperatives.
Currently, rural electric cooperatives have certain powers, including the power to construct electric transmission and distribution lines or systems. Under this act, such "electric transmission and distribution lines or systems" is defined to include copper and fiber optic cable, facilities, and technology that carries light signals and data beyond that necessary for the transmission and distribution of electricity. Further, this act specifies that if a property owner prevails against a rural electric cooperative or cooperative subsidiary in a suit in trespass or inverse condemnation, the trespass shall be deemed permanent and the actual damages awarded shall be the fair market value and fixed at the time of the initial trespass, punitive damages shall not be assessed, but the property owner may be compensated for property damage resulting from such trespass and reasonable attorneys' fees not to exceed 25% of the damages awarded.
Under this act, the General Assembly declares that expanding and accelerating access to high-speed broadband communications services is in the best interests of citizens. In recognition of this capital intensive deployment, the General Assembly encourages rural electric cooperatives to enter into agreements or contracts with certain entities set forth in this act. Such agreements may provide for the non-exclusive use of rural electric cooperative infrastructure and easements for the deployment of such services.
Under this act, agreements for membership in the cooperative may include provisions requiring binding arbitration of disputes and prohibitions on class actions.
This act is identical to SCS/HB 1880 (2018).