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Mississippi editorial roundup

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 20, 2015 at 11:39 am •  Published: May 20, 2015

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

May 18

The Greenwood (Mississippi) Commonwealth on the two electrical monopolies:

There was good news last week for those in Mississippi who buy power from one of the two electrical monopolies regulated by the state.

Entergy Corp., the four-state parent company of Entergy Mississippi, said that its first year of membership in a regional power grid system saved customers more than $250 million. Those savings included $48 million for Entergy customers in Mississippi.

Entergy estimated more than $1.4 billion in customer savings over a decade when it joined the Midcontinent Independent System Operator group. But if the first year is any indication, the savings will be much more than that.

The system, called MISO, directs electricity transmissions across 14 states and a Canadian province, generating power in the least expensive location.

Entergy said its participation in the regional system reduced the monthly bill for its average Mississippi residential customer by 3 percent. That's only an average savings of $3.50, but at least the cost of electricity is not rising. To find a place where that's not happening, you don't have to look far.

Mississippi Power Co., the state's other investor-owned electrical monopoly, last week filed three separate proposals for rate increases over several years with the state Public Service Commission so that the company can pay for its $6.2 billion coal gasification plant in Kemper County.

Mississippi Power's future rates remain in limbo, as the company is appealing a state Supreme Court ruling that overturned Kemper-related rate increases and ordered a $337 million refund to customers.

Last week's PSC filings assume the Supreme Court ruling is unchanged.

The rate increases being sought are more evidence that Mississippi Power and its owner, Southern Co., were reckless in embarking on the unproven coal gasification venture. The utility is trying to get customers to pay the bill for a folly that turned out to be several billion dollars more expensive than projected.

Right now, a Mississippi Power customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per month pays about $144. If the PSC approves any of the three proposals filed last week, that monthly cost would rise to between $153 and $180 per month over the next few years.

Entergy, meanwhile, with its new membership in the regional power management system, is trucking along with a bill of $110 per month to customers who use those same 1,000 kilowatt hours.

That's a noticeable difference. Apply it to Mississippi's businesses and industries, and the difference in cost could translate into big differences in job growth in those areas served by Entergy versus those served by Mississippi Power. The more a business has to pay for utilities, the less it has for investments that create jobs. With Mississippi Power having a monopoly over roughly one-third of a state, this is a major state economic development concern.

There's no way to know if MISO membership will continue to help Entergy's rates trickle downward in the coming years. But it's certain that if Mississippi Power gets away with passing on its mistakes to its customers, it's going to be a job killer.



May 19

Sun Herald, Biloxi, Mississippi on the coast casino industry:

So Alabama thinks it can take on the Coast casino industry. So our neighbor thinks it could intercept our Florida visitors and stop many of its own gamblers from heading to Mississippi.

Sorry, Alabama, but you're a little late to the casino party; our casinos have been perfecting that aspect of our tourism package for decades. While other regions are suffering, our casinos continue to put up solid numbers.

And now, we're about to elevate our game.

We have new restaurants up and down the Coast, with more going up. We have Gulfport with some serious money to spend to land an aquarium. We have plans for miniature golf on a scale not seen on the Coast before.

The Pascagoula River Audubon Center is another dream coming true in Moss Point with the addition of the Coast's second botanical garden and a $1.3 million center that is coming in under budget. Soon the center also will have nature walks, a pier and boat house, and outdoor classrooms.

Then there's D'Iberville, no longer content to be a shopping destination. It has the Coast's newest casino, the Scarlet Pearl, going up on its waterfront. City Manager Bobby Eleuterius said the city is talking to developers who want to build an indoor hockey rink and go-cart track, roller coasters and a Ferris wheel.

That's a vision we like -- family entertainment spreading across the Coast.

Biloxi is just about ready to play ball, and it's not stopping there. It knows the area around the ballpark could be a tourism gold mine if it had the attractions to make Shuckers fans hang around after the game.

Bay St. Louis is hopping, too, with many options for dining, seemingly endless festivals and the Infinity Science Center to attract the New Orleans crowd off the interstate. And there's no reason for them to ever get back on it. Why get on the interstate when you can head down U.S. 90 along the beach all the way to Ocean Springs, famous for its family-friendly festivals and its nightlife?

The state sees our vision, too. Besides its help for the baseball team and proposed aquarium, it has plans for a ferry service to Deer Island -- another way, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann says, to persuade families to "stay one more day."

All this perfectly complements the family attractions we have: museums, shopping, the barrier islands and beaches, boardwalks and piers.

With all we have to offer, families probably should plan on staying a week.



May 20

Northeast Mississippi Journal, Tupelo, Mississippi, on higher-speed internet:

Tupelo's elected leaders should not miss an opportunity to seriously renew negotiations with the Mississippi-based C Spire telecommunications to bring high-speed fiber Internet to Tupelo.

The discussions became very quiet when Tupelo was not selected in an original group of communities, which included Corinth and Starkville.

In November, City Council members discussed a possible agreement between Tupelo and C Spire, but the terms were not favorable to Tupelo.

This week, in a work session, council members, the mayor and City Attorney Ben Logan discussed a possible contract that could bring 1 gigabit per-second capacity Internet to the area, a speed nearly 100 times faster than normal Internet.

Logan's continuing conversations with C Spire have led to developing a contract that changes and shortens the contract terms in years, plus the minimum capacity of 1 gigabit per second being offered in the city.

The contract would not require a 45-year agreement as did an earlier version - in violation of state law.

Logan said he felt comfortable bringing the agreement back before the council for members to take action, Daily Journal reporter Rod Guajardo wrote in a Tuesday article.

Council President Mike Bryan, after polling council interest, has called for a work session next week to discuss details.

Mayor Jason Shelton said he was pleased with the negotiations moving forward.

A super-high-speed Internet has immense appeal for the commercial, retail and industrial sectors, plus individuals and families.

"The possibility of fiber to the home for our city is extremely exciting for many reasons because that fits into so many different things such as economic development, quality of life, growth opportunities and convenience for our citizens," Shelton said.

Shelton acknowledged some initial concern and questions from council members about how entering into the agreement with C Spire would impact the city's current relationship with other telecommunications companies, such as Comcast and AT&T.

Competition is a defining factor in telecommunications among giants like Comcast and AT&T. C Spire ultimately wants Tupelo's business, even if acting somewhat coy, and that should be to the advantage of Tupelo and the potential customers in the city and area.

Once legal requirements are met and the company selects a specific city for the service, a certain number of households in designated areas must preregister, including paying a $10 refundable deposit.

C Spire is offering the service to eight Mississippi cities: Clinton, Ridgeland, Corinth, Jackson, Quitman, Starkville, Flora and Madison. Hattiesburg, Horn Lake and McComb have been removed because of a lack of participation.

Tupelo should seriously examine this proposition's potential.