Cooperative Charges Ahead with Broadband Rollout in Rural Missouri

By the middle of next year, officials in Gower are hopeful their town will be seeing the benefits of broadband Internet service.

by Ray Scherer, St. Joseph News-Press / November 6, 2017
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(TNS) -- GOWER, Mo. — By mid-2018, Gower, Missouri, will start witnessing the many benefits of a full range of broadband Internet services.

The community is currently in the midst of a transformation that will deliver a modernized fiber-optic Internet system. A partnership with United Fiber, a subsidiary of United Electric Cooperative, is bringing the project to fruition.

James Bagley, chief executive officer for United Electric and United Services, said the introduction of broadband to the cooperative’s service territory actually began before the recent start of his tenure.

“A lot of our members do not have adequate broadband,” Bagley said.

Having Internet connectivity is a necessity for any community, he said, in terms of completing 21st century tasks in education, business and health care.

To date, United Fiber has assembled a network in its area that encompasses 16 communities, 20 schools and 96 health institutions that include hospitals and doctor’s offices. Cameron, King City and Maysville all have benefited so far from United’s broadband efforts.

Gower was a willing partner in seeking United’s specialties with the Internet. Prospects remain open for partnering with other cities in the future.

“The city’s been great to work with,” Bagley said of Gower. “They wanted us there.”

Nearly 300 people completed early signups for United’s broadband in Gower.

The profits from such projects will aid United in its ability to make a financial return to members in December.

Bagley said a Connect American Fund Two auction next year could provide the cooperative with an additional resource for its Internet programs.

David Girvan, United Fiber’s chief operating officer, said installation of underground duct work is will proceed in Gower through the fall. Weather will not be a hindrance for completing the work, he added.

There is no timeline for ensuring that all rural communities under United Fiber’s umbrella have broadband, according to Bagley. He said a bipartisan stance by state and federal lawmakers is helping make broadband a reality in underserved rural areas of Missouri.

Gower Mayor Chip Holman said the Internet is a godsend for the city.

“It’s going to be huge,” he said. “We have around a dozen people who work from home” in such fields as medical transcription and insurance sales, he added. “They’re needing more stable and reliable service.”

United Fiber also provides Internet to entities in St. Joseph that include Mosaic Life Care, Bagley said.

Sellenriek Construction is the contractor installing Gower’s Internet.

©2017 the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.