WRVEC may offer different internet speed packages in proposed fiber internet project here

Residences and businesses in Ozark County may eventually be eligible to purchase high-speed, fiber optic internet service. White River Valley Electric Cooperative is proposing a partnership project with Ozark and other counties in the service area to provide the service to their customers, which includes part of Ozark County. The east side of the county is serviced by Howell-Oregon Electric Cooperative instead.

Ozark County commissioners are still considering partnering with four other counties and White River Valley Electric Cooperative to bring high speed, fiber optic internet to the area.

Last week, Ozark County Commissioners John Turner, Gary Collins and Layne Nance heard from WRVEC Manager of Communications and Member Services Cassie Cunningham on the co-op’s proposal to bring fiber optic internet to Ozark and the four other counties they serve.

Since the Times’ reporting on the topic, WRVEC has amended their proposal to include the potential of three internet packages instead of the one $89 per month plan, which would have featured a guaranteed 100 mbps package for subscribers.

Presiding Commissioner Turner was concerned about low income people being able to afford the $89 package.

Cunningham told the Times that WRVEC is now proposing three high-speed packages, which would range from $69-99 per month. She said that for $69 per month, customers would be guaranteed 100 mbps upload and download speeds, while for $79 per month they could subscribe to a 250 mbps plan and for $99 per month they could tap into a 1 gps plan.

“That’s sounding better to me,” Turner said. “My concerns were for the low-income folks and our county residents on the east side of the county who don’t use WRVEC and are on Howell-Oregon Electric Cooperative.” According to a Howell-Oregon Electric Cooperative spokesperson, they have 1,589 customers in Ozark County in the Caulfield, Bakersfield, Tecumseh and Dora areas.

The proposal by WRVEC would be a $234 million project, most of which the cooperative would fund. However, WRVEC is seeking federal and state grant money and are asking counties contribute to the project.

Cunningham said WRVEC is asking for the five counties to come up with $10 million collectively to contribute. She said Ozark County’s share would be about $1.5 million.

“Well, they’re not getting $1.5 million. I can tell you that,” Turner said Monday during a discussion about the proposal.

There was a discussion last week among commissioners and County Clerk Brian Wise about using some of the county’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money to pay for the fiber optic internet. Ozark County is getting nearly $1.8 million in ARPA money, having already received $890,971 and expecting another $890,972 in 2022.

The county has already spent more than $208,000 of that money on sheriff’s department salaries, new automatic doors for the courthouse that will soon be installed, the installation of two new water fountains in the courthouse and a few smaller projects in county offices. 

“We’re still waiting to see what the other counties are going to do, and what their (WRVEC’s) final plan will look like,” Turner said. “We’re certainly not against the idea, we just want something that serves all of our residents.”

Cunningham said the project would be a five-year build and would start in more rural areas of their service area, like Theodosia. 

She said the cooperative expects that high speed internet could be in 90 percent of their customers’ homes and businesses within three years under the plan.

Ozark County Times

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