The Institute for Local Self Reliance has updated their 2017 report on how Cooperatives Fiberize Rural America; they update it on a regular basis. The quick take from the Minnesota perspective – coverage in Minnesota has increased by 1,000 square miles – or percentage wise from 21.6 to 22.3 percent in the last year.
And here are recommendations…
Federal and state governments must recognize that cooperatives are one of the best tools for ubiquitous, rural, high-speed Internet access.
- Design funding programs with cooperatives in mind.
- Letters of credit from the largest banks may be hard to come by for smaller cooperatives.
- Make applications as simple and easy as possible. Staff time is limited at small cooperatives.
- Develop grant and loan programs rather than create incentives in the tax code for infrastructure investment.
- Encourage cooperatives by removing barriers and encouraging partnerships.
- Remove barriers to electric cooperatives exploring the possibility of fiber network. Cooperatives should not be prevented from applying to federal grants that they are eligible for because of hindersome state laws.
- Encourage partnerships, including with existing muni networks.
- If you live in a rural area, talk to your neighbors, co-op manager, and board members about the potential for Internet networks. Successful cooperative projects are community-led projects. About 70 percent of electric cooperatives have less than 10 percent average turnout for their board member elections.25
- Co-Mo Electric Cooperative in Missouri had excited members go door-to-door and gave out yard signs to encourage folks to get involved with the project. Many community members also wrote letters of support for the project.
- In New Mexico, the local business community voiced their needs at Kit Carson Electric Cooperative board meetings to encourage the co-op to build a fiber network.
- Delta Montrose Electric Association in Colorado overcame an initial reluctance to develop an Internet access project after overwhelming demand from its members.26
- Make it clear that rural connectivity is about more than entertainment. Farmers, programmers, and entrepreneurs all need high-speed Internet access. Rural connectivity also supports needed research.
- Allband Communications Cooperative started a non-profit called ACEWR, which collaborates with universities and research institutions across the United States. It is a prime spot for research on local wildlife, endangered species, and conservation projects. The nonprofit also has an online workforce development program to train locals in new skills, empowering them to succeed in the 21st century economy