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Inside Missouri’s $5M rural broadband grant program

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — With money appropriated by the General Assembly earlier this year, Missouri has launched a $5 million broadband grant program. 

The grant, announced Tuesday, is to provide resources to providers and communities investing in broadband infrastructure in underserved areas. 

“Missouri’s rural and urban communities are ready to put these funds to work,” Missouri Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn said. “By providing an opportunity for broadband infrastructure upgrades, we hope that all of our communities will soon have access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet. It’s our long-term goal to connect our communities, all the way to the last mile.”

According to the Department of Economic Development (DED), eligible applicants include: 

  • Corporations registered in Missouri
  • Incorporated businesses or partnerships in Missouri
  • Limited liability companies registered in Missouri
  • Nonprofits registered in Missouri
  • Political subdivisions
  • Rural electric cooperatives organized under chapter 394 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri and broadband affiliates 

Applicants will be able to use the funding for the acquisition and installation of retail broadband internet service with baseline speeds of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. Project costs can include construction, engineering plans, permits, and validation of service, according to the DED

Projects requesting $500,000 or less are to be given higher priority and total government assistance is not to exceed 50 percent of project expenses. Projects will be selected based on the need for servicing, whether it meets the state’s minimum definition of high-speed internet, the applicant’s share of total project costs, economic and community benefits, and adoption strategies, according to a news release. 

The application process will open on Dec. 5 and last until Jan. 7, 2020. 

“It’s a huge problem that nearly 20 percent of Missourians lack access to high-speed internet,” Gov. Mike Parson said. “That’s the kind of problem that if you work toward solving it, it’s going to help with other problems, like retaining good talent or offering better health care and education for our communities. Broadband is exactly the kind of infrastructure that Missouri needs to grow and thrive in the future.”

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) selected more than 100 companies across the U.S. in an auction last summer to receive funding as part of a $1.5 billion initiative to bring broadband access to underserved areas. Missouri benefited greatly from the auction, accounting for 17 percent of the total allocation. 

Areas where the FCC’s Connect America Fund has been awarded will not be eligible for the state’s grant program. Additionally, places already receiving support from the federal Universal Service Fund or other federal sources without matching-fund components are not eligible for Missouri’s program.