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PSC approves lease of Ameren fiber for broadband services

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s Public Service Commission (PSC) is allowing Ameren Missouri to lease a section of unused fiber to another company seeking to expand broadband coverage.

Ameren sought a 20-year “dark fiber” lease agreement with MCC Network Services, LLC. to provide internet service along a 1.6 mile stretch between where the Mississippi River crosses from Missouri to Illinois. Commission Staff recommended the approval of the lease last month, finding MCC’s use of the cable would not interfere with Ameren’s service. 

The commission approved the lease during this week’s agenda meeting on the condition that Ameren provides regular updates and notifies the PSC if it intended to cancel or alter the lease. 

“Frankly, I’m excited to take any opportunity we have to aid in the expansion of rural broadband with the authority that we have,” PSC Chairman Ryan Silvey said. 

The PSC also ordered Evergy Missouri and other stakeholders in its application for tariffs to implement a transportation electrification pilot program to submit exhibits in the case by Friday. Hearings over the proposed program, which would expand Evergy’s network of electric vehicle chargers, are scheduled for Oct. 12-13.

Commissioners discussed Missouri-American Water Company’s request to alter the connection time and funding percentage requirements for applicants seeking to connect to an extension of its water main in Cottleville. While commission Staff questioned whether the PSC had the authority to waive provisions of existing tariffs, commissioners voted to move forward with the case with an order expected during next week’s meeting. 

Spire Missouri filed its general rate case in December 2020, seeking to invest in new programs and infrastructure. Spire has the opportunity to either renew its weather normalization adjustment rider (WNAR) — which adjusts rates based on weather patterns, increasing or decreasing costs due to differences between normal and actual heating days — or instate alternative rate mechanisms proposed by Spire and Staff.

Commissioners said they would likely side with Staff’s recommended mechanism when the issue comes before the PSC for a decision, with other orders expected to be issued on the case next week. 

The next PSC agenda meeting is scheduled for Oct. 14.