Carl Junction, Missouri, Plans Community Owned Fiber Network

Carl Junction, Missouri, is moving ahead with plans to build a fiber network.

Steve Lawver, City Administrator, tells us that funding for the $5.2 - $5.6 million project will most likely come through a lease program from the Missouri Public Utility Alliance (MPUA). Lawver tells us that funding will involve private placement non-taxable bonds, available to members of MPUA.

The network, which will be entirely fiber to the premises, will serve local government, schools, businesses, and residents. In an email, Lawver notes that:

We, as many rural communities, have found that the incumbent providers that are serving us have no plans for the improvement or expansion of their system here in our city.  With little else to do we decided to build it ourselves and find a service provider that is responsive and customer oriented.

The City began pursuing the network some time ago. Last September, TSI Global presented information at a City Council meeting after completing 75% of a feasibility study. In a Joplin Globe article, Andra Bryan Stefanoni described data they gathered on available service in the Carl Junction area:

Mediacom users can download data at 20 megabits per second and upload at 2 megabits per second for $30 a month. AT&T users can download at 6 megabits per second and upload at 1 megabit per second for $20 a month. Zing fixed wireless users can download 3 megabits per second and upload at 1.5 megabits per second for $99 a month.

At that same September meeting, Stefanoni noted that residents commented on the project. While not all of the comments favored pursuing broadband infrastructure investment, most of the speakers at that meeting commented on poor choices:

Resident Josh Hoover told the council he depends on a reliable Internet connection because he works from home.

“My Internet access is very shaky, to say the least,” Hoover said. “It has made me consider at times moving out of Carl Junction.”

Mayor Mike Moss, who works at Missouri Southern State University, said he hears complaints from MSSU teachers, as well as employees of Leggett & Platt, TAMKO Building Products, hospitals and Pittsburg State University, who live in Carl Junction, and rely on Internet to do work at home after hours.

Resident Toby Teeter said he was excited and fascinated by the prospect of such a network, and encouraged the council to consider the possibility of what technology will allow in the future.

Teeter said there are “huge holes all over town” with current service providers. As a Mediacom subscriber, he has been without service for six weeks.

In a January Globe article, Lawver told reporter Ryan Richardson that creating meaningful choice, reliable service, and local control were the driving forces behind the plan to build:

“This is about having everything in place for our residents to have options for high-speed Internet and other services for years to come,” Lawver said in an interview Wednesday. “Once this is built, the city will own the infrastructure, and we will be able to contract a service provider for the city. People are really limited here right now in their choices and are at the mercy of coverage by the companies that provide service out here.”