SAVANNAH, Mo. — For more than 15 years, United Electric Cooperative has provided power to Northwest Missourians.
On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Nixon stopped by the Savannah, Mo., organization to tout the expansion of a new service in the region: broadband Internet.
The cooperative was a partner in Mr. Nixon’s broadband initiative, MoBroadbandNow, which launched in 2009. The governor said the goal of the initiative was to make broadband Internet accessible to 95 percent of Missourians, including those in rural and underserved areas, by 2014.
Mr. Nixon’s visit was part of a light-up ceremony held to mark the arrival of the cooperative’s UnitedFiber project. The project stretches from Dearborn to near the Iowa border, including more than 1,200 miles of fiber through six Northwest Missouri counties.
Gene Dorrel, CEO of the cooperative, said the organization is excited by the project and what it will offer to the region.
“Honestly, we believe it’s going to be a game changer,” he said. “Not just for the schools, but for industries, for small businesses, for homes. Maybe this will keep some of our kids in town instead of everybody moving to Kansas City and St. Louis. We hope it does.”
Mr. Nixon said the near-completion of the statewide broadband project, which was the result of $310 million in local, state, federal and private-sector funds, fulfills the vision to put high-speed Internet access within reach of all Missouri schools, hospitals, public safety agencies and businesses.
“It is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity,” he said. “It’s a necessity to keep our economy moving forward and to compete in the 21st century with the latest communication tools.”
He added that broadband also is key to retaining young workers in rural areas, a point that echoed Mr. Dorrel and other leaders who spoke.
“This is one of those tools that’s going to allow a new type of worker — someone who can work from where they are, whenever they are, doing important tasks, to be able to do that right here in rural Missouri,” he said.
David Klindt, vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, said access to broadband Internet is having a noticeable effect that is bound to create future opportunities for businesses.
“In some instances (they’re) having better connections, better speeds than some of the biggest cities in the world, and I think that’s one of the amazing things,” he said.