Progress has been slow, but Intercounty Electric Cooperative is continuing efforts to offer broadband internet wirelessly in the counties it serves in south central Missouri.
Dent County residents, whose broadband options are extremely limited, have been contacting Intercounty about bringing broadband to this area. The calls picked up after The Salem News ran a story in March about Intercounty’s plans.
Intercounty is building a database of potential customers before deciding where to expand and in what order, said Heather Satterfield, director of communications for Intercounty.
“We’ve had a lot of residents over in the Salem area call and say, ‘Hey I know we can’t get it but could you put me on the list?’ We’re getting all that mapped so we’ll have a good visual of where the interest lies,” she said. Members have also expressed interest at the co-op’s annual meetings.
Last year Intercounty acquired Texas County Rural Area Information Network (TRAIN), a non-profit formed in 1997 to provide internet access in its home county.
Intercounty is still working to integrate TRAIN billing into the Intercounty system and improve the quality of service to existing customers.
We are in the process of getting our current internet customers from TRAIN over to the same billing program,” Satterfield said. “We were hoping to have that done by July but it’s looking more like August.
“Once that happens, that’s going to really help. It’s hard to think about expanding when don’t have your ducks in a row on existing customers.”
Intercounty is also working on upgrading its plant to increase speeds across the board.
“We’ve got a lot of places where existing customers’ service is not as great as we would like for it to be, so we want to improve what’s out there currently,” she said. “And the mapping department is working on mapping all those potential customers that have expressed interest.”
Intercounty has been looking at both grant and loan programs as funding opportunities for its expansion project. There are few grants and many applicants. Loan programs offer more opportunities and much few applicants, she said.
“We probably won’t get a grant,” she said. “That would have been ideal. But we’re still keeping an ear to the ground and watching for opportunities like that.”
Intercounty has already upgraded the connection at two of the existing wireless towers in Texas County and is working to upgrade to a fiber connection at two others. Having a fiber connection increases the amount of bandwidth available to customers being served off that access point.
Satterfield said delays getting the expansion rolling were not unexpected.
“It’s slow progress,” she said. “We kind of knew that. We knew that buying an existing company would have its own set of challenges. We want to get billing integrated, we want to get existing service up to standard and do things right.”
She added, “We’ll get there. It is just not going to be as quickly as residents would like.”