For more than a century, electric cooperatives have ensured rural communities’ electricity needs are met. Now, many electric co-ops have made strides to ensure their communities have access to today’s newest necessity, Internet service.
In northeastern Missouri, Ralls County Electric Cooperative is bringing high-speed Internet service to the small city of New London. Nearby, the city of Perry hopes the electric cooperative will extend the project to its residents and they've let the co-op know that they will welcome the service with open arms.
Ralls County Electric Cooperative
Ralls County Electric Cooperative is working on a pilot project in New London that will bring incredibly fast and reliable Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) to the community's 1,000 residents. The project will offer triple-play services of Internet access, phone service, and high-definition TV.
The New London project won't be the first FTTH project for Ralls County Electric Cooperative. Between 2010 and 2015, the cooperative built a $19 million fiber network in the area. Funding came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in the form of half as a loan and half as a grant. The electric cooperative formed a subsidiary, known as Ralls Technologies, for its telecommunications projects.
The Herald-Whig of Quincy, Illinois (about 45 minutes from the Missouri towns), recently reported that officials in Perry are encouraging Ralls County Electric Cooperative to come to their town. They have started a petition to show support for bringing the project to their community.
Ralls County Electric Cooperative has not committed to extending the project to Perry, but the city’s Mayor Dustin Wasson has signed a letter of support on behalf of the City Council to the electric cooperative. Explaining the need, Mayor Wasson told the Herald-Whig:
"It would allow us to upload things faster, and it would allow us to download things faster," he said. "It would put us on a more competitive playing field with neighboring communities, especially with businesses."
Rural Electric Co-ops: A Changing Mission
Rural electric cooperatives are increasingly picking up the slack when national ISPs choose not to invest in sparsely populated areas. In episode #229 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, Christopher spoke with Jon Chambers, former FCC official, who now works with rural electric cooperatives interested in bringing Internet access to members.