Construction starting on Co-Mo Connect Phase 1 project

Co-Mo Electric Cooperative next week officially begins construction of Phase 1 of a project that eventually will make fiber-to-the-home Internet, television and telephone available to all its members.

The cooperative is building the Co-Mo Connect network in response to member demand and a glaring lack of high-speed communications in the rural areas it serves.

The start of Phase 1 is the culmination of a three-year effort to test the viability of Co-Mo Connect in this part of rural Missouri. The cooperative intends to use the network as the foundation for current and future smart-grid developments. The overwhelming capacity of fiber optics means there is enough capacity to additionally offer Co-Mo Connect services through its communications subsidiary Co-Mo Comm to the cooperative’s membership.

“This is truly a historic time for our communities,” said Co-Mo Electric CEO/General Manager and Co-Mo Comm President Ken Johnson. “The people of our part of rural America have stepped up — just like they did with the necessity of electricity back in the 1930s that led to the formation of Co-Mo — and said, ‘There is a new necessity.’”

Co-Mo Electric was formed in 1939 after investor-owned electric companies bypassed the countryside because there were not enough residents per square mile to make the required profit. Similarly, Johnson said, other communications providers have passed by Co-Mo country without providing high-speed Internet.

The cooperative has hired Sellenriek Construction Inc. and Ervin Cable Construction to build the network based on, among other things, their expertise and safety record. Though the official construction kickoff is next week, Co-Mo crews have been in the first areas scheduled for construction for several months preparing the poles for the fiber.

The first Phase 1 subscribers should be online by the end of the summer, and all Phase 1 subscribers’ services should be activated by May 2014.

Co-Mo Connect Internet offers some of the fastest Internet speeds in the country, starting with a base package of 5 megabits per second and ranging up to 100 mbps and beyond. Unlimited local and long-distance telephone is also available. New with Phase 1 is the addition of Co-Mo Connect TV — unavailable during the pilot project. Original pilot project subscribers will be able to receive TV service first. Signups for those subscribers will occur in June.

“There are some really great features unique in this area to Co-Mo Connect TV,” said Randy Klindt, Co-Mo Connect’s general manager. “The biggest of those is Restart TV.”

With Restart TV, subscribers can go to the beginning of programs on select channels, regardless of whether they were turned to that station or forgot to set their DVR.

“So if you want to watch a big game and you get home with two minutes to go, you can just click a button and go back to the beginning,” Klindt said.

Co-Mo Connect also has some of the best prices in the area, with a simple bundling discount of $15 a month for choosing two services and $35 a month for choosing all three. Details can be found at co-mo.net or by calling (800) 781-0157.

Phase 1 covers much of the cooperative’s Lake District, as well as its service territory from Tipton to its eastern border just west of Jefferson City. Phase maps can be found at co-mo.net. Those unsure of which phase they are in can find out by entering their Co-Mo Electric account number in a special field on the homepage.

Construction within Phase 1 is beginning in the areas that had the highest percentage of signups during a pre-sales period that ended in April. Eligible subscribers can still sign up, though the installation price of $100 will rise after construction crews pass each location.

The entirety of Phase 1 construction is expected to take about a year, as is each successive phase. The entire network is expected to be completed at the end of four years.

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