Columbus Light and Water (CLW) and TVA were founded on a mission to serve — through reliable and affordable energy, a safe and protected environment and thriving economic development.
CLW provides electricity to 12,000 residential and commercial customers in Lowdes County, Mississippi.
“Our tagline is ‘the power of people.’ This is because our energy is owned by the people who live here, and powered by our internal team that works really, really hard to serve the people in our community,” Dr. Verdell says, adding, “When you can make an impact on the most basic level and provide people with their most basic needs, they’ll follow you. Our little town is on the upward trend in terms of using technology and innovation. Looking forward, we want more people driving EVs and more businesses partnering with us and TVA, using EnergyRight.”
CLW is one of the first local power companies (LPCs) to participate in the TVA program Connected Communities, which brings information and technology solutions to citizens in the Tennessee Valley. In August of 2022, CLW launched a two-year pilot called ACTNow (Access, Connectivity, Tools), thanks to a $262,000 grant from TVA under the program’s equitable access to services initiative.
They are now able to provide Columbus Housing Authority (CHA) residents with internet connection via hot spots and in-unit connections. They also offer digital literacy education and those who complete the classes are eligible to receive a device.
“Anyone who does not have internet access is at a deficit,” Dr. Angela Verdell, general manager, Columbus Light and Water says. “We want to improve the quality of life for CHA residents and believe this is possible through the use of technology and the education that goes along with it.”
“We are here to help people understand the power of having internet access, and what that can do for their lives. A lot of us take for granted that everyone knows how to use a laptop, or what it means to be connected,” Dr. Verdell says, “but everybody doesn’t know and everybody doesn’t have the ability to use (those resources).”
ACTNow educators will teach elderly residents how to use technology for telehealth and video calls, introduce job seekers to certification projects to improve skills, and engage students in STEM learning. Dr. Verdell says, “We also recognize that a significant percentage of this population either has never banked or is under banked, and plan to show them how to use technology to (have more agency over their money).”
HUD ConnectHome USA celebrated the program’s impact by awarding CHA with badges of honor for connecting 250 residents and distributing 200 devices. Additional partners responsible for making this program possible include Resident Council of Friendly City, Mississippi State University Chapter of National Society of Black Engineers and Residency Office of Self-Sufficiency (ROSS) of Friendly City.
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