Southeastern Missouri residents in three counties will soon have Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) available through the Pemiscot-Dunklin Electric Cooperative. The new project marks yet another opportunity for rural residents and businesses to obtain high-quality connectivity from their electric service providers.
Missouri specifically has been utilizing rural cooperatives as a means to connect people to improved Broadband Internet. Barry Electric Cooperative, Co-Mo Cooperative, Callaway Electric Cooperative, Ralls County Electric Cooperative, and Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative have all begun connecting businesses and residents to their fiber networks.
Pemiscot Dunklin Fiber will serve the residents of Dunklin, Pemiscot and New Madrid counties. The co-op has yet to announce subscription prices, but will offer video, voice, and high-speed Internet access. They plan to provide symmetrical connectivity so subscribers can be participants in the online economy, not just consumers. DSL connections are available to much of the area with scant cable offerings.
Electric cooperatives have provided essential services to rural and underserved areas for many years, and recently they’ve begun to offer Internet service in an effort to ensure rural communities aren’t left behind.
Pemiscot-Dunklin Co-op was organized in 1937, one year after the Rural Electrification Act. The New Deal Era legislation provided federal money for the installation of electrical distribution centers. By 1950, the cooperative had lit up around 90 percent of the region. Ever since the 1950s, the area has contended with population decline as people move to urban areas for employment. Better connectivity spurs economic development, and the cooperative likely sees this investment as both a way to serve members and to make the region more desirable to businesses.
Cooperatives are getting a second look from government and policymakers with ambitions to improve rural connectivity because these organizations are bringing the Internet access rural Americans. For decades, large ISPs have focused on urban areas or only offered the bare minimum to rural communities, but cooperatives see the value of rural FTTH investment. We dived deeper into rural fiber deployment from cooperatives in our recent policy brief, Cooperatives Fiberize Rural America: A Trusted Model For The Internet Era. As of June 2016, 87 cooperatives offer residential gigabit service (1,000 Mbps) to their members.
Rural cooperatives have decades of experience building sound infrastructure that will provide viable services to their communities. Today a number of rural telephone and electric cooperatives are experimenting with FTTH pilot programs.
On November 25th, the groundbreaking ceremony saw board members symbolically digging shovels into the ground, commencing the build-out for the three counties. System Technology Coordinator Tim Davis exclaimed, “Rural America shouldn’t be left behind,” and General Manager Jonathon Chambers added,
“The founding principle of the Co-op is service to others.”