Bad news for cable: ALLO Fiber overbuilds Cable One in Joplin, MO

  • ALLO Fiber will overbuild Cable One in Joplin, Missouri, at the request of the city of Joplin

  • Cable companies have traditionally avoided each other's footprints, but fiber builders don't care about those "gentlemen's agreements"

  • One Joplin city council member said broadband should be treated as a utility

The city of Joplin, Missouri, has taken broadband competitiveness into its own hands and has wooed ALLO Fiber to build a fiber network in the city that will compete against the long-time incumbent Cable One.

This is bad news for Cable One. But it could also spell bad news for cable providers all over the country. For several decades cable operators have been careful to respect each other’s footprints, rather than competing against each other in many markets. And they’ve always fought hard against municipal broadband efforts, arguing that taxpayer dollars should not be used to compete with their networks, which were built with private investments. But that way of approaching broadband may be coming to an end.

This deal between Joplin and ALLO is a new animal.

It is not by definition a municipal network. The network will be funded, built and operated entirely by ALLO.

The city is involved because it was fed up with what it considered sub-par internet for its residents, and it put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a fiber company to enter the market.


After a five-year process, the city council of Joplin (population 52,000) voted last week to allow ALLO Fiber to construct a fiber optic network in the city, using public rights-of-way and easements.

Troy Bolander, director of Planning, Development & Neighborhood Services for Joplin, said at the city council meeting, “I get frustrated when I talk about this because I felt like Joplin's being left out. We're small where we don't have a lot of players in this area, so there's no competition.”

He noted that very rural areas have the prospect of getting fiber broadband built via government programs such as BEAD. And bigger cities have more competition. But a small city like Joplin is caught in the gap.

He said the city received nine responses to its RFP, and after a lot of due diligence it chose ALLO. 

“ALLO really stood out because they were coming to our market without asking us for any assistance,” said Bolander.

The municipality is going to pay $5 million to ALLO to do some extra work in order to harden the city’s own infrastructure, constructing a backup central office and fiber drops to anchor institutions. The city wants this because a few years ago it got hit by a tornado that knocked out all its emergency communications.

But Bolander stressed that this $5 million is at the city’s special request and is not something that ALLO demanded.


Al Schroeder, director of outside plant engineering for ALLO, spoke at the city council meeting as well. He said ALLO has been deploying fiber broadband ever since it was founded in 2003. “We bring fiber to every home and business in the communities we serve,” said Schroeder. The company’s fiber now passes over 1 million locations in 40 markets, serving 160,000 customers.

ALLO has a lot of markets in its home state of Nebraska and has also built fiber broadband in Colorado and Arizona. 

The fiber builder will use XGS-PON technology in Joplin, and its service will provide 10 Gbps symmetrical service. The project will take two years, but ALLO will connect customers on a rolling basis as service becomes available.

Schroeder said ALLO will have a storefront in Joplin so that residents can walk in and order service and get their questions answered and problems solved. Alternatively, they can also call ALLO’s customer service or go online.

The project passed the city council on an 8-1 vote. 

Broadband as a utility

Interestingly (and perhaps frighteningly for incumbent cable operators across the U.S.) one of the city council members brought up the subject of broadband as a utility. Councilman Mark Farnham, who was the sole dissenter on the vote, said he thought the network should be owned and operated by the city as a utility.

“I know that there are many technical issues. There are pros and cons. It's complicated. And Joplin may not have the ability to do that right at this time, but I do believe that …. this particular utility, all aspects of it, should be owned and operated by Joplin,” said Farnham.

These are not words that cable operators want to hear, and they certainly don’t want to see a new trend of municipal broadband or of their broadband service being considered a public utility.

Cable One

For its part, Cable One has been providing its hybrid fiber coax Sparklight service in Joplin for nearly 45 years. Until now, it has had no wired broadband competition in the city.
Cable One told Fierce Network it serves more than 19,000 residential internet customers and nearly 2,000 business subscribers in Joplin. It says it has invested $19 million in Joplin over the past three years. The company does have a local office in the city where its customers can talk with a customer service representative in person.

"We have worked hard for years to bring quality, reliable services and economic vibrancy to our Joplin community, and we look forward to continuing to do so for many years to come – the entrance of a new provider in Joplin will not change that," said a Cable One spokesperson.
Cable One serves more than 1.1 million residential and business customers in 24 states.