Rural Missouri - October 2021 - 9
understand it is 20 times faster than what I used to have.
What I want to do the most is mainly be able to work from
home. Before, there were days I could join meetings and
days I couldn't. "
The new service builds off of a fiber-optic backbone
built by Sho-Me Power, a Marshfield-based
transmission cooperative that wheels power to
Gascosage and eight other electric cooperatives.
Sho-Me helped with feasibility studies that
showed the project was possible.
Gascosage Electric started looking into providing
broadband after a survey of its members
showed strong interest in such a project, Carmen
says. " Most people wanted it. They were
looking for better internet than they had. "
With the assistance of Andrew Blanton, ShoMe
Technologies, the co-op applied to the USDA
ReConnect program and was awarded $14
million in grants and loans to provide service
to 1,300 homes and businesses. " We took that
to our board, " Carmen says. " When they saw
we could apply for a grant that paid for half of it they said,
'Let's give it a try.' Low and behold, we won it. "
This project will be completed in three phases starting
with an area along the Phelps and Maries county line.
Phase 2 moves to Pulaski County from Richland to Crocker
and then to the Miller County line. The final phase spans
the southeast corner of Miller County into Maries County
at Iberia and north to Brinktown. Gascosage works closely
with Andrew and Brad McGood at Sho-Me Technologies
who have supported them with grant applications, engineering
and project management for all fiber plans.
A second ReConnect offering netted another $700,000
grant for 10 miles of fiber for the cooperative that can add
service for another 55 subscribers. Then the state offered
funding which resulted in a $400,000 grant that will pay
for 21 miles of fiber to serve 83 homes in the Tick Creek
area. The cooperative hopes to expand to members not
included in the eligible grant areas using its own funds.
While building a service like this won't work in every part
of the state, it is tailor-made for this region.
" The Phelps County area, Tick Creek to be exact, is actually
the ideal situation for the original intent of the state
broadband grant program, " says Tim Arbeiter, state director
of broadband development. " We are talking
about a very difficult and rural area of Missouri
that has a number of challenges in delivering
high-speed internet, from the number of households
to be served to the topography challenges
Gascosage faces. "
He says low density and the amount of
capital needed to launch a fiber internet company
is what keeps similar projects from being
launched elsewhere in Missouri. " In every case
that capital expenditure is significant, " Tim
says. " It truly is a struggle and that's why we at
the state got into this a few years ago. "
Some project delays may result from the
shortage of fiber-optic cable and other materials
necessary to complete the service. This is
due to the extensive buildout of broadband across the
country. Despite the setbacks the co-op vows to do whatever
it takes to bridge the digital divide for its members.
" We are ready to take on the challenge, " Carmen says.
" The areas we are building to are sparsely populated and
there are long distances between homes. These are not
areas that are attractive to profit-based companies. But it
isn't about profit for us. It's about serving our members'
Adds the lieutenant governor, " I am confident we will
get to the day where everyone has electricity and fiber.
Everyone is going to have to be just a little bit patient, but
we will get there. "
For more information on Gascosage Electric's GTech Fiber
visit www.gascosage.coop or call 844-834-4456. To learn
more about Missouri's broadband development program,
Top: Fiber optic cable, the bottom strand, joins electric lines on this Gascosage Electric pole. Left: Gascosage member Anna Torres can now count
on a fast and reliable connection to the internet when she works from home. She was among the first to be connected to the new service. Right:
Gascosage Electric's Shawn Lipscomb shows Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe and his wife, Claudia, a map of the fiber project.
OCTOBER 2021 | RURALMISSOURI.COOP 9
Rural Missouri - October 2021
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - October 2021
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