The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Thursday it will invest $91.5 million into expanding rural broadband access in Missouri.
Nixa-based internet service provider Total Highspeed will receive the largest portion of the investment, with a $24.9 million grant and a $24.9 million loan from the department’s ReConnect Program, according to a press release. Total Highspeed plans to connect about 26,000 people, more than 700 farms and about 400 businesses to fiber broadband in a five-county area in southwest Missouri.
The other recipients of the grant are:
- STE Communications, receiving a $14.8 million grant and a $14.8 million loan to deploy broadband in Iron, Dent, Crawford and Washington counties;
- Marshall Municipal Utilities, receiving a $7.5 million grant to deploy broadband in Saline County;
- Missouricom, receiving a $4.6 million grant to deploy broadband in Dallas, Camden and Laclede counties.
The ReConnect Program, which is short for Rural eConnectivity Pilot Program, was launched in 2018. The most recent wave of grants to Missouri is part of the program’s second round of funding, which pledges $550 million for the expansion of broadband access in rural communities across the country.
Rural broadband access has drawn increased attention nationally since the start of the pandemic, with school and work for people across the country going remote. An additional $100 million was made available to the ReConnect Program from the federal CARES Act, from which $2.9 million was given to St. Louis-based Big River Communications to expand broadband in southeast Missouri. Missouri allocated $20 million in CARES Act funds to its own Emergency Broadband Investment initiative.