by Sean J. Vanslyke - email@example.com
It has been an incredible month at SEMO Electric Cooperative and GoSEMO Fiber. We delivered 720 summer meals for children, we surpassed 4,300 high-speed fiber Internet installations, we mailed checks totaling $73,000 to help 105 students attend trade school or college, we hosted our first drive-thru annual meeting and we had Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt visit our office. All of these things despite COVID-19. Team SEMO keeps pushing forward.
Regardless of your politics, it’s important to respect the offices of elected officials and do our best to maintain strong personal relationships to help protect the Cooperative’s interests and its members’ interests related to electricity and broadband services. It is important that we open our doors for positive interactions that allow rural Missouri to prosper. As an example, the Attorney General traveled to southeast Missouri to discuss the importance of broadband. He took time to listen, time to learn about the effort it takes to build and expand a fiber-to-the-home network and time to assist us with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
In working to expand broadband, several companies claimed to the FCC in mid-April that they provided both 25/3 Mbps broadband and voice services (GoSEMO Fiber starts its broadband service packages at 100/100 Mbps) in order to prevent competition from other providers willing to deploy faster broadband services. Their claims were demonstrably false.
Thankfully, as a result of the collective efforts of an advocacy group who investigated and responded to these inaccurate claims with the facts, as well as courageous decisionmakers at the FCC, hundreds of millions of dollars of federal Universal Service Fund subsidies will now be available to other providers, including America’s electric cooperatives, willing to bring high-speed broadband services to rural communities in dozens of states. Absent these collective advocacy efforts, these same rural communities would likely have been left without high-speed broadband services for at least another decade.
If the FCC allowed the challenge to stand, dozens of rural communities in Arkansas and Missouri would have continued to find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide. Now, the unserved locations are deemed eligible for funding in the FCC's $16 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I Auction that begins October 29.
The advocacy group included Jonathan Chambers and Team Conexon, Todd Lantor at Lukas LaFuria Gutierrez & Sachs, LLP, Missouri Attorney General Schmitt and staff, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and staff, Senator Roy Blunt and staff, Senator Josh Hawley and staff, Congressman Jason Smith and staff, the Missouri Farm Bureau, the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, Mississippi County Electric Cooperative, Pemiscot-Dunklin Electric Cooperative, SEMO Electric and many other local elected officials and key community leaders, business owners and residents. It was a team effort.
Regardless of the ultimate outcome, the FCC’s decision could result in high-speed Internet services for many unserved homes, farms and businesses, further closing the digital divide. I appreciate the effort of many dedicated individuals and organizations that worked collectively to make a wrong a right. Thank you.
Book of the Month: “Today I will choose to be happy. I have a grateful spirit.” Andy Andrews – The Young Traveler’s Gift
Be smart. Act safe.
Vanslyke is general manager and chief executive officer of SEMO Electric Cooperative. In the top photo, Sean with Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt. In the bottom photo, volunteers load and deliver summer meals.