“Broadband is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to participate equally in school learning and health care, and to stay connected — yet by one definition, more than 30 million Americans live in areas where there is no broadband infrastructure that provides minimal acceptable speeds,” White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean Pierre said. “Broadband is as critical as electricity and water.” Do you have access? According to a recent interactive map unveiled by the federal government, a majority of Missouri counties have at least 15 percent of their population without internet access at all with rural areas reporting even higher percentages.
If you receive electricity from SEMO Electric Cooperative, you have access to world-class broadband services – otherwise known as GoSEMO Fiber. The Cooperative’s journey to bring broadband to our member-owners started more than five years ago. We conducted due diligence in 2015 and 2016. On January 16, 2017, the feasibility study arrived. On March 22, 2017, SEMO Electric’s Board of Directors approved the project. Team SEMO went to work. We ordered network equipment and designed the first of 17 sections. GoSEMO Fiber conducted its first residential test on January 8, 2018. The first paying subscriber was connected on February 16, 2018. I am pleased to say we are now providing more than 10,000 broadband services (internet, HDTV and VoIP telephone) and 100% of our membership has access to world-class broadband! Together, we are making people’s lives better.
It has been a big job for Team SEMO. We have had some great people and organizations help us along the way. A shout-out to our major partners such as Conexon (fiber design), Pike Energy (pole make-ready), Townsend Corporation (tree trimming), Ervin Cable Contractors (fiber construction) and Highland Cabling (fiber drops and installations). Now, we are working to provide broadband services to people outside of our service territory and to bring broadband to other cooperatives’ member-owners. Of the 40 electric cooperatives in Missouri, there are about 10 providing broadband services. There are many obstacles such as competition, money and commitment.
I testified before the Missouri House of Representatives’ Interim Committee on Broadband Development to advocate for an increase in funding to extend broadband to underserved areas. I told the committee that Missouri was lagging far behind other states in terms of access and reliability. Missouri ranks No. 32 in broadband access, according to Tim Arbeiter, director of broadband development. Actions matter. We have to keep pushing forward to help others.
On a lighter note, congratulations to Team SEMO’s Randy Hicks on his retirement from SEMO Electric. Randy has been a familiar face to the Cooperative’s members for more than 30 years. He took pride in serving his area and getting to know his members. Randy – thank you for your service. Enjoy being Grandpa!
Book of the Month: “I believe that every person is a rare work of art, like a magnificent sculpture just waiting to emerge from an amorphous slab of rock. The process of chipping away to reveal the beauty and truth buried within is a lifelong undertaking. Sometimes progress is painfully slow and gets derailed by setbacks. Other times you’re pleasantly surprised and forever changed by what you find.” Surfacing by Siri Lindley
Keep pushing forward! Be smart. Act safe.
Vanslyke is general manager and chief executive officer of SEMO Electric