USDA announces $91.5 million investment to expand broadband in rural Missouri

RDN REPORTS
The Rolla Daily News

Missouri Senator Roy Blunt on Thursday commended the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s  announcement that it is investing an additional $91.5 million in grant funding through the ReConnect Pilot Program to expand rural broadband in Missouri.

The Fiscal Year 2020 government funding bill, backed by Blunt, included $550 million for the program, which targets areas that currently lack access to broadband and includes provisions that prevent overbuilding existing infrastructure.

“The pandemic has brought even more attention to how critical connectivity is to education, health care, and jobs,” Blunt said in a news release Thursday. “Ending the digital divide will level the playing field for people in rural areas who haven’t had the same opportunities to compete and succeed. I’ll continue working to ensure we have the policies and resources in place to address one of the most important economic and quality of life issues facing our rural areas.”

With today’s announcement, Missouri has received nearly $200 million in funding through the program over the past two years, including: $3 million in August 2020; $60.9 million in January 2020; and $41.6 million in November 2019.

Blunt supported the creation of the ReConnect Pilot Program in the fiscal year 2018 government funding bill, and supported additional funding for the program in the fiscal year 2019 and fiscal year 2020 funding bills.

Following are the details of the awardees announced today, according to USDA:

·       The Stoutland Telephone Company, doing business as (DBA) Missouricom, will use a $4.6 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network, which connect 2,390 people, 78 farms and 12 businesses to high-speed broadband internet in Dallas, Camden and Laclede counties.

·       Marshall Municipal Utilities will use a $7.5 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network, which will connect 3,890 people, 433 farms, 63 businesses, two public schools, a fire station and a post office to high-speed broadband internet in Saline County.

·       Steelville Telephone Exchange, DBA STE Communications, will use a $14.8 million ReConnect grant and a $14.8 million ReConnect loan. As a result, STE Communications will deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 4,756 people, 314 farms, 55 businesses, two fire stations and a post office to high-speed broadband internet in Iron, Dent, Crawford and Washington counties.

·       Total Highspeed LLC was awarded a $24.9 million ReConnect grant and a $24.9 million ReConnect loan. These funds will provide a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 26,077 people, 720 farms, 417 businesses, nine fire stations and five public schools to high-speed broadband internet in Christian, Greene, Lawrence, Stone and Webster counties.