MINER, MO (KFVS) - People who live in rural parts of southeast Missouri have limited options for accessing the internet, and some have none at all.
But a SEMO Electric Cooperative is helping solve the problem by building a fiber optic cable network called GoSEMO Fiber.
According to the Cooperative, home installation started in Advance, Mo. in June 2018.
Construction is underway in Bloomfield.
The $40 million, five-phase project was approved by the cooperative's board of directors almost a year ago.
Loyd Rice, the administrator of engineering services for SEMO Electric, said they decided to move forward with the investment because they saw value in supplying homeowners, school districts, and small businesses another option for high-speed internet.
"Now we get to build out something that has become a necessity in society," Rice said. "The ability to have a broadband service that is effective now changes the whole quality of life for those folks. It's definitely a necessity at schools. You can work from home."
Rice said the first phase of constructing the fiber network, which focuses on Miner, Advance, and Bloomfield, started last August and now a couple dozen customers actually have their fiber hooked up in rural parts of Scott County.
Old Bethel Baptist Church on the northern edge of Sikeston was one of the first test sites for GoSEMO Fiber.
Brent Horton, a youth pastor at the church, said their previous internet service was sluggish on a busy Sunday, and that nothing compares to how fast and effective their new fiber service is.
"It has larger capacity, higher speeds, and we have greater uploads and downloads," Horton said. "We're looking forward to maybe streaming some Facebook sermons and some of our services for members that couldn't get out that day."
Horton said the most common question members of the church have asked is 'how much does the fiber internet cost?'
"Once we compared prices, it's very comparable to what they had before," Horton said. "But fiber has a lot more possibilities of upload and download speeds and even them offering their mesh service which we take advantage of here at the church because our church is so large."
Horton also described the installation process as 'smooth' and said SEMO Electric worked around the church's schedule to do installations inside and outside their building.
Rice said work areas where they've installed substations, and buried fiber hasn't caused any roads so far and that workers are moving quickly because they already had poles and wiring in place.
"A big savings to the cooperative that we may have not even expected because we are building along our existing infrastructure," Rice said. "And so six seven months into now, we're probably half to three-fourths the way through our first phase of the actual build."
Rice said there are several tiered options for service available. For the 100 megabits fiber optic service, which is the lowest level, homeowners pay $50 a month while businesses pay $80 a month.