NEW LONDON, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon believes that an electric cooperative in a rural northeast Missouri county could be setting a trend for other rural areas of the nation to follow.
Nixon was in New London on Thursday to formally launch the Ralls County Electric Cooperative's fiber Internet initiative. He was joined by Jonathan Adelstein, administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service.
The co-op just south of Hannibal is one of the first in the nation, and the first in Missouri, to receive federal stimulus funding for the development of broadband Internet, which remains lacking in many rural areas.
The Quincy Herald-Whig reports that the co-op has strung 450 miles of fiber cable and is delivering high-speed Internet to about 100 homes.
Nixon compared the effort to another visible piece of the nation's infrastructure that also began in Missouri.
"Just like Missouri in 1956 was the centerpiece for the interstate system, the Show-Me State will be the centerpiece" for broadband, Nixon said.
The Ralls County co-op is using more than $19 million in funding it received in January 2010. General Manager Dan Strode hopes to eventually have 1,200 miles of fiber providing super-high-speed Internet for 4,500 customers.
"The future of communications is coming to Ralls County," Strode said. "Everything looks like this will work for rural America."
Nixon noted the importance of high-speed Internet for schoolchildren.
"Every classroom in this region will have access to every book ever written and every class taught in the world," said the Democrat, whose administration has made rural broadband access a priority through the MoBroadbandNow initiative. "We are confident that broadband access is a game-changer."
Adelstein said that in addition to education, health care, electric utilities and business will be dramatically enhanced by better and faster Internet access.
He compared the impact of widely available broadband to that of universally available electricity through the development of rural electric cooperatives 75 years ago.