Discussion highlights importance of reliable internet

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Dixon: ‘goBEC fiber is the crown jewel of Cassville’

Barry Electric Cooperative’s goBEC broadband fiber network teamed up with Greene County to invite people in for a broadband discussion on March 10.

According to a press release from Barry Electric Cooperative, Greene County Presiding Commissioner Bob Dixon has been appointed to the Broadband committee of the National Association of Counties (NACo) and is seeking to gain information that can be used by the Association to lobby Congress for more infrastructure investment in rural areas.

Topics discussed included broadband surveys and compiling data about what options are available, barriers to buildout, including geography, and future proofing.

Leaders from Barry County were asked to join in this conversation to help identify important aspects of this potential broadband growth, and its need.

Laura Holycross, member services coordinator with Barry Electric Cooperative, said they also invited people who would like to be in the goBEC fiber network, but live even just a mile or two outside of the service area.

“Angela Seymour and Richard Asbill came and spoke about the importance of reliable internet and education,” she said. “They said great things about how necessary it is, now especially with virtual learning.”

Holycross said families not on the goBEC fiber network joined the conversation and spoke about the need for internet services for medical appointments.

“They want to be able to have those virtual meetings but are unable to do so currently,” she said. “Barry Electric is in support of what Bob Dixon is trying to do.

“Dixon is taking this report to legislation to show the impact reliable and affordable internet service has.”

She said due to other competitors, the goBEC fiber network is losing out on grant opportunities that would help expand service.

“We want to expand,” Holycross said. “We would like to get the funding to help us expand. We were glad to host this event because it brings awareness to what we are doing.”

Dixon said he was appointed to the nationwide task force studying rural broadband.

“It is a project of NACo,” he said. “I’m one of 30 appointed across the country, so I wanted to get out and visit with citizens in neighboring counties and take inventory of the needs.”

Dixon said he is grateful to goBEC for organizing the gathering and inviting the stakeholders from education, healthcare, business, internet providers and others. 

“[The intent of the meeting was] to gather information for the task force and answer three questions: What is the current broadband footprint? What are the barriers to more buildout? How can we guarantee equal access to broadband?” he said. “We had a great discussion which lasted over an hour.”

Dixon felt that the questions were answered and other important topics were brought up.

“Some have goBEC fiber, and it is the crown jewel of Cassville,” he said. “Others have no access to the internet. Students have paid a price during COVID where they lack access to broadband.”

Dixon hopes to conduct these meetings in 10-12 counties and combine the findings for the NACo.

“The task force is meeting currently and will be on an ongoing basis,” he said. “I believe the final outcome will be an effective lobbying effort on behalf of rural counties with the U.S. Congress for infrastructure investment. 

“Fiber is the best option because all options utilize portion of the fiber network. Therefore, non-fiber solutions can slow down the overall system. The biggest barrier to expansion and buildout is cost.”

Dixon expects goBEC, Barry County and Greene County to continue these discussions in the future, noting the significance of the relationship.

“This is of enormous significance,” he said. “Our entire region can and should work together on things like this where it makes sense — we can certainly achieve more together.

“I’m grateful for the new working relationship with goBEC. I thank the Barry County Commission for connecting us.”

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