by Sean J. Vanslyke - firstname.lastname@example.org
For the first time in SEMO Electric Cooperative's 82-year-old history, the Governor of Missouri and the First Lady visited the cooperative's office in Sikeston. The purpose of Governor Mike Parson's and First Lady Teresa Parson's stop was to announce a $142,000 matching grant for SEMO Electric's fiber project. The funding will help provide service to 60 underserved homes. The state is using federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act money to pay for the broadband funding.
We continue to seek federal and/or state funding to offset the investment. Why? As a not-for-profit cooperative, we are not building a 100% fiber network to make money. We are building a 100% fiber network to make people's lives better. If we didn't do it, there are thousands of people in southeast Missouri who may never get access to adequate high-speed fiber-fast Internet for work, for school, for health care and for entertainment.
The Governor agrees. “The digital divide in rural Missouri limits growth in many sectors of our economy, including education, workforce development, health care, business retention and attractions, just to name a few,” Parson says.
The grant funding can be used only to pay for costs associated with the deployment of broadband to unserved and underserved areas. An unserved area is an area without access to wireline or fixed wireless broadband internet service with speeds of at least 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload. An underserved area is an area that currently has a minimum of 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload, but does not yet achieve 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. GoSEMO Fiber base package starts at 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload for only $50 per month with unlimited data, no throttling and no contracts. It's fiber-fast!
SEMO Electric has received minor financial support from outside resources for our 2,000-mile, $52 million project. The cooperative secured $2 million (payable over a 10-year period) from the Federal Communications Commission’s CAF-II auction and a $250,000 grant awarded from the Delta Regional Authority, which came from efforts provided by the Bootheel Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission based in Dexter, Mo.
Because we are a cooperative, our mission is to enrich the lives of our members and serve the long-term interests of our local community––and this mission has never been more critical than in recent months. One of the seven principles that guides all co-ops is “concern for community.” October is National Co-op Month, and electric cooperatives across the country are highlighting the many ways we “Power On.” Keeping this theme in mind, I recognize the essential role we play in serving a special community like ours.
Who would have fathomed in March, that the COVID-19 virus would amount to a test of our community and our nation? The changing circumstances due to the pandemic have created both challenges and opportunities. Over the past several months, we’ve all been challenged to operate differently, and SEMO Electric and GoSEMO have stepped up to help our members. We kept pushing forward. Since March, we have connected many new electric services and connected at least 1,600 households with high-speed fiber Internet. I tell you about these efforts not to boast about Team SEMO, but to explain how much we care about this community––because we live here too. We’ve seen other local businesses rising to meet similar challenges during this time, because that’s what communities do.
Book of the Month: “The vast majority of people don't go looking for change. They don't challenge themselves on a daily basis to learn new things and create new experiences. They are too busy trying to protect what already exists, even if it's just average. The curious bear dies and the fearful bear takes over.” Dave Gordon – TIP
Be smart. Act safe. Keep pushing forward!
Vanslyke is general manager and chief executive officer of SEMO Electric Cooperative. In the photo, Sean shows Missouri Governor Mike Parson several strands of fiber.