Friday, August 28, 2015

Rural Missouri finds success in getting connected to high-speed Internet through rural co-ops

While some rural areas are still sitting around waiting for high-speed Internet that is continually promised but never delivered, Missouri has found a successful way to connect rural areas through rural electric co-ops, Richard Oswald reports for the Daily Yonder. "Our abundant underground supply of coal made us a natural for coal-fired electricity generation. Power plants were built conveniently on top of coal beds." (Co-Mo Electric Cooperative photo: Workers roll out fiber-optic cable) 

"Those co-op jobs were good for rural Missourians, a lot of whom were farmers who gained electricity in the bargain," Oswald writes. "The whole thing was turned on its head when someone figured out our high-sulfur coal was bad for the planet. Now we generate about 83 percent of our electricity needs from coal hauled in by rail from Wyoming. But co-ops are still at the seat of power in Missouri because they hire local people to keep up electrical grids across the state. They have a reputation for service as they preserve cooperative principles and leave the door open for the next big thing in rural America . . . fiber optics capable of moving rural Internet connections at the speed of light."

"That's what's happening at one Missouri electrical co-op where they've turned part of central Missouri into its own hotspot," Oswald writes. "CO-MO Connect, a holding company of CO-MO REC headquartered in Tipton, Mo., provides Internet and cable TV service to 42 Zip codes and over 38,000 people in central Missouri."

"That's not an easy task in any rural community, but Central Missouri has an advantage over other rural areas; they're also recreational hotspot," Oswald writes. "Thanks to the man-made Lake of the Ozarks, there's a raft of second-home part-timers around the lake who pay taxes and buy their power from CO-MO. Because of that, there are also a huge number of entrepreneurial businesses who offer goods and services to vacationers, boaters, fishermen and property owners in the area. Super-fast Internet connections help businesses connect with consumers in a brisk retail environment that peaks from Memorial Day to Labor Day." (Read more)

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