Co-Mo Electric looks to build fiberoptic network

Co-Mo Electric Cooperative will be constructing a state-of-the-art, fiber-to-the-home network in two pilot project areas in their service territory, according to the Board of Directors. The network will be operated by Co-Mo Comm, the cooperative’s communications subsidy.

The vote by the board came after a 31⁄2-month effort to gather enough subscribers so the broadband network could be built without affecting the cooperative’s electricity rates.

In 2010, the cooperative attempted to secure a federal grant under the stimulus bill that would have allowed it to build the network to its entire service territory immediately. But the grant review committee failed to award the Co-Mo project.

The cooperative’s board then authorized the staff to study whether bringing fiber-to-the-home service to the membership would be financially feasible without affecting electricity rates.

Two pilot area projects — one just south of Syracuse and the other in the Gravois Mills/Laurie area — were chosen because they represented average density for the entire service territory and because of their proximity to the cooperative’s two offices, a factor that kept costs down.

The pilot project proceeded with a presale mode. If enough subscribers had not been found, the network would not have been built.

The cooperative’s engineering staff will begin to design the broadband network, and service is expected by the end of the year. Subscribers will be contacted in the coming months to choose their level of service and whether they want to add unlimited local and long-distance phone service.

Co-Mo Comm will continue to accept applications from those in the pilot project area while the system is being designed and constructed. Applications can be found at either cooperative office or by calling 800-781-0157.

If construction costs are in line with projections, the service could be extended to the entire Co-Mo Electric Cooperative service territory based on where the greatest demand is. Though only Internet and telephone service are available during the pilot project, cooperative officials said they likely will add television service to the list of offerings at that time, allowing members to bundle all those services, plus electricity, on one bill.

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