rural broadband

Via U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr

Missouri awarded over $261 million to 60 projects across the state that will improve or expand internet access in underserved locations, the Department of Economic Development announced Monday. 

Funding for the projects comes from the state’s broadband infrastructure grant program, which is funded through the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA. Missouri received $2.6 billion from ARPA to operate over 20 grant programs. The state opened the broadband infrastructure grant program in August 2022 and received over 300 applications.

The projects aim to serve underserved or unserved areas and deliver affordable service at 100 mbps, according to the release. The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, defines high-speed internet, or broadband, as a minimum of 25 mbps for downloads. But FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel recently proposed raising the minimum to 100 mbps. 

White River Valley Electric Cooperative, a nonprofit electric utility organization based in Branson, received over $47 million to operate 7 projects. It plans to lay over 2,000 miles of fiber to provide high-speed internet access to  Christian, Douglas, Ozark, Stone and Taney counties.

Fiber cables transmit data through pulses of light. Some in the industry say the use of fiber cables for internet access is more reliable than traditional connections, like satellite or copper phone lines.

Chariton Valley Communications Corporation received over $43 million for 10 projects in the counties of Adair, Knox, Marion, Macon, Monroe, Shelby and Ralls. The projects will provide high-speed internet access to over 8,000 underserved households, businesses and anchor institutions.

Twenty other entities will undertake projects to improve broadband access in counties across the state, which includes many in northeast and south Missouri.

Tommy Gleason is a reporter for Missouri Business Alert. He is a sophomore majoring in journalism at the University of Missouri.

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