goBEC completes fiberoptic network for all customers
11-year-old idea reaches completion, is 4,581 subscribers strong
An idea 11 years in the making is now officially complete, as the Barry Electric Cooperative’s goBEC fiberoptic network has finished its final phase.
In 2010, Barry Electric began looking into the possibility of a fiber-to-home communication network on request from members.
At the beginning of 2016, 17 miles of lines were buried along Highway 37. At that time, the plan to give every BEC member the availability to utilize high-speed broadband service via 1,100 miles of fiberoptic cable.
The five-year project required eight building areas, referred to as phases, connected to one another by a fiber ring and a central office.
By the end of 2017, the goBEC fiberoptic project was nearly half way completed.
At that time, nearly 1,000 modems were live, and the first live customer was the Cassville school district.
Dealing with difficult terrains in Washburn and numerous streets in Cassville slowed the project a bit, but there was continuous work on the project that was on schedule.
In August 2018, goBEC had 1,700 subscribers, with that number climbing every day due to phase 5 of 8 being completed.
The challenge of dealing with competitors and contracts would eventually time itself out as contracts ended and people were free to choose goBEC.
All in all, better service and the promise of no contracts were major selling points of this new service, according to goBEC.
By mid-2019, the number of subscribers had almost doubled to 2,700.
By completing phase 8 in Wheaton ahead of schedule, phases 6 and 7, in Jenkins and Shell Knob, were on the schedule next.
A tornado and a delay due to 106 miles of electrical lines which needed rebuilding briefly stalled the project.
But, goBEC continued to look forward and planned to send out surveys to surrounding areas to see if the interest in expanding was there. However, the first priority was always existing Cooperative members.
This April, members gathered in celebration of the completion of the project — Barry Electric’s goBEC fiberoptic network 5-year, 8-phase project was live.
Laura Holycross, Barry Electric Cooperative member services coordinator, said there are currently at 4,731 active modems and about 4,581 subscribers.
“We, of course, would like to see every member we have connected to fiber, but realistically, that won’t happen, as many of our member accounts are not likely fiber locations (i.e. barns, wells, storage buildings),” she said. “We are currently at a 51 percent take rate for likely locations, and that’s pretty great considering we only completed our main line build at the end of 2020.”
Expansion is not out of the picture for goBEC either.
“We realize what an amazing service fiber to the home is, but it will only be done when/if it’s in the best interest of our members,” Holycross said. “Our board of directors are very firm on that matter. We have constant requests for growth into our surrounding areas. Especially the lake area that is underserved.
“We are constantly monitoring for grants and funding to help serve those underserved areas.”
The final mainline phase was completed at the end of 2020.
“The early completion of the network was one of those God-willing-and-the-creek-don’t-rise kind of deals,” she said. “Not to mention the huge efforts made by BEC and our contractors to prepare and upgrade our system. We finished two years early.”
The build began in the Cassville area to get the most density, and then the Cooperative moved to where the areas that the rights of way were completed first. Roaring River was the next area connected, followed by Exeter, Washburn, Seligman, Wheaton, Jenkins and Shell Knob.
“Next for goBEC is continuing to provide excellence in service and also continue partnerships with schools, the cities and other non-profit organizations,” Holycross said. “We will continue to listen to the requests of our outlying areas and if feasibility is there then we will go. Again, it always stems back to what’s best for our members.”
Holycross said the COVID-19 pandemic only amplified how much of a luxury it is to be able to work, learn and have access to virtual medical care from home.
“Fiber is also a key asset in economic development of our area,” she said. “People who live in Barry County know how awesome it is to live here, and now, more and more people are noticing it as well. “People are looking for rural life with city amenities.”
Holycross said it is really important for Barry Electric Cooperative members to understand that subscribing to goBEC is best for their cooperative membership.
“It will enable us to have rate stabilization in the future as the costs to provide reliable electricity rises,” she said. “The money that goes into goBEC goes back into Barry Electric and into your community. You cannot say that about the other internet providers.”