A Systems Approach to Scaling Rural Co-op Efforts to Expand the Fiber Edge

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Digital Beat

In the late 1800s, people knew Turney, Missouri, as a major railroad stop. Today, little retail or industry remains in Turney (pop. 148), with Kansas City just a 30-minute drive away. 

Clinton MOLeft behind by large internet service providers, the residents of Turney are gaining access to improved broadband access through the Project OVERCOME effort. Local residents anticipate an expansion of opportunities for entrepreneurship to boost the local rural economy, and improvements in broadband access will increase opportunities for remote work, enabling Turney families to live, earn, and learn in Clinton County. 

The team assembled to execute this vision includes the Missouri University of Science & Technology, University of Missouri Extension, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, United Electric Cooperative/United Fiber, and Maximize NWMO. Together this coalition possesses a blend of experience developing innovative wireless technologies, wireless systems deployment, and community engagement.

The deployment in Turney will combine multiple wireless technologies into a single architecture using Radio Frequency (RF)-over-Fiber technology. The team optimizes bandwidth allocation by using machine learning in an intelligent router. It stitches low-cost, low-bandwidth hardware together to simulate a high-bandwidth device and reduce expenditures for overall deployment. As a model for other rural communities, the technology will build on an open-source platform that allows for replication elsewhere. The Turney team will also share lessons learned and best practices from the project to help expand the fiber edge and bring greater connectivity to other small, rural communities. 

The pilot project in Missouri takes a creative technical approach to connecting the unconnected. Still, the project team understands that gaining the participation and trust of Turney residents will be a more critical factor in its success. Almost half of the town attended an ice cream social to learn more about the project ahead of network deployment. During the event this spring, residents met with project organizers and asked questions about the project. Embedded in an existing regional community engagement effort led by Maximize NWMO, the project leverages community resources. It builds additional partnerships with local organizations and social institutions to connect 50 households in Turney. 

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US Ignite is accelerating the smart community movement – and creating value for an entire ecosystem – by guiding communities into the connected future, creating a path for private sector growth, and advancing technology research that’s at the heart of smart city development. Project OVERCOME is delivering broadband services to the underserved and unserved populations in seven communities. The project is led by US Ignite with financial support from the National Science Foundation and Schmidt Futures.

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all people in the U.S. have access to competitive, High-Performance Broadband regardless of where they live or who they are. We believe communication policy – rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity – has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities.


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Kevin Taglang

Kevin Taglang
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
for Broadband & Society
1041 Ridge Rd, Unit 214
Wilmette, IL 60091
847-328-3040
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