Gascosage Electric Cooperative, serving members in south-central Missouri, recently joined the list of ReConnect recipients. The co-op will use a $14 million grant and loan combination to deploy gigabit Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) to members in four counties where people are unserved and underserved.
Gascosage General Manager Carmen Hartwell told St. Louis Public Radio, “We’re really a natural choice for this. We already have the infrastructure in place and a history of bringing utilities to rural residents.”
Co-Mo Cooperative and Ozarks Electric Cooperative in Missouri are two other rural electric cooperatives that have expanded the use of their infrastructure to provide broadband to members. In the rural regions of Missouri, as in other states, people living in less populated areas recognize the crucial role high-quality connectivity plays in economic development, educational opportunities, and ability to remain competitive.
“When we take a look at educational opportunities and economic development, internet access may stimulate growth of businesses in our area,” said Hartwell. “It might bring more people into our area that otherwise maybe telecommute for their jobs. Now, they’re going to be able to live on family farms.”
Phasing In Fiber
The co-op has a three-phase plan to connect more than 1,100 households, 20 farms, 20 local businesses, and two rural fire-protection districts. Gascosage has posted detailed information for members, including maps, on their website and their Facebook page revealing exactly where the deployment will occur. The deployment areas are in Camden, Maries, Miller, Phelps, and Pulaski counties. Subscribers will also be able to sign-up for voice services.
Phase one should be completed in early 2021 and will make symmetrical gigabit connectivity available to 285 premises, three farms and eight businesses. Phase two will add 295 premises, to the network, and should also be completed in 2021. The largest Phase will connect 729 homes, businesses, and farms; the co-op will deploy this phase in 2022 and 2023.
“When we go to meetings, one of the top requests of school officials, city officials, everyone who has attended these meetings that we’ve participated in, broadband is their top request,” said Melinda Stormes, office manager at Gascosage.
Members of Gascosage Electric Cooperative will join an increasing percentage of Missourians who live in rural regions and receive high-quality Internet access from their local co-ops. In this interview from February 2019, Christopher interviewed Jack Davis, Vice President of IT and Special Projects at Pemiscot-Dunklin Electric Cooperative. The Missouri co-op is deploying FTTH to members in the "bootheel" region of the state.