Rural Missouri - July 2021 - 4

RM | COOPERATION
A little help from a friend
AG Schmitt takes action to help co-ops boost broadband
A
s Missourians transformed the way we
worked, learned, worshipped, shopped and
accessed health care over the last year, it
has become clearer than ever that access
to reliable and affordable high-speed internet is
essential for life.
Access to quality internet service in rural areas
has come a long way in the past decade. But, the
urgency of the pandemic highlights the need for
more to be done and soon. Removing the obstacles
that stand in the way of rural broadband is a critical
issue for Missouri's electric cooperatives.
That is why last summer SEMO and Pemiscot-Dunklin
electric cooperatives reached out to
Attorney General Eric Schmitt in their effort to
compete for federal broadband grants.
Through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, or
RDOF, the two cooperatives submitted grant applications
in an attempt to expand broadband access
to more members in Southeast Missouri. A private
competitor challenged the cooperatives' applications,
falsely claiming the company could provide
the necessary internet access, which would preclude
the co-ops from competing for the grant.
" We became aware of the potential
exclusion of the co-ops to provide a
really valuable service, " the attorney
general relates. " It was clear
the cooperatives could do the job, if
given the opportunity. Not only did
the cooperatives have the capabilities
to deploy the necessary fiber to
increase high-speed internet access,
it was clear they really knew and
understood the communities they
were serving. It was truly an example
of neighbors helping neighbors
during a challenging time. "
The attorney general's office
quickly took action and submitted
a letter to the then FCC chairman
insisting the cooperatives be
allowed to compete for the funds.
It was a huge win for the people of
Southeast Missouri and Northeast
Arkansas when the FCC moved to
overturn the private competitor's
baseless challenge after reading the
letter from Missouri's attorney general
and his counterpart in Arkansas,
Leslie Rutledge.
" It was only fair that the FCC
allow our cooperatives to compete
4 RURAL MISSOURI | JULY 2021
on a level playing field for these funds, and I'm glad
they sided with our argument, " he says. " As your
attorney general, I can assure you our office will
continue to look for opportunities to support our
rural electric cooperatives in any way possible. The
work done by cooperatives for their members and
communities is vital to Missouri - just as vital as
high-speed internet. "
Adds SEMO Electric Co-op CEO Sean Vanslyke,
" Attorney General Schmitt traveled to Southeast
Missouri to discuss the importance of broadband.
He took time to listen, time to learn the effort it
takes to build and expand a fiber-to-the-home
network and time to assist us with the FCC. Thankfully,
hundreds of millions of dollars will now be
available for other providers, including electric
co-ops, willing to bring high-speed internet to rural
communities. "
Missouri's electric cooperatives appreciate the
efforts of AG Schmitt. Absent his help, these rural
communities would have been left on the wrong
side of the digital divide for at least another decade.
Instead, the two co-ops are close to completing
the job of bringing high-speed internet service to
Southeast Missouri.
photo courtesy SEMO Electric
SEMO Electric CEO Sean Vanslyke shares info on a rural broadband funding issue
with Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt during a meeting held at the co-op.

Rural Missouri - July 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - July 2021

Contents
Rural Missouri - July 2021 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - July 2021 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - July 2021 - Contents
Rural Missouri - July 2021 - 4
Rural Missouri - July 2021 - 5
Rural Missouri - July 2021 - 6
Rural Missouri - July 2021 - 7
Rural Missouri - July 2021 - 8
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Rural Missouri - July 2021 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - July 2021 - Cover4
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