The Missouri Department of Economic Development has identified a critical need for broadband availability in Missouri, with an estimated 20% of Missourians – roughly 1.2 million Show-Me State residents, living without access to high-speed internet.
An estimated 1.2 million Missourians do not currently have access to high-speed internet service.
The NEMO RPC is teaming up with the state Office of Broadband Development to work with providers, communities, and stakeholders in Missouri to expand and accelerate broadband deployment in five core areas including:
- Increase broadband data collection and utilization
- Accelerate broadband infrastructure and access
- Leverage partnerships to accelerate broadband efforts
- Increase Broadband Adoption & Awareness
- Promote Efficiencies and Opportunities in Broadband Development
The COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020 has placed even more emphasis on the need for expanded high-speed internet service in rural Missouri as quarantine and social distancing efforts led to the rise in telemedicine, remote education, e-commerce, and further transitioning to virtual interactions.
A number of state and federal funding opportunities have resulted in significant influxes of governmental aid in expanding broadband service in rural Missouri. The Missouri legislature had appropriated $5 million to the Missouri Broadband Grant Program. That funding was significantly subsidized in July of 2020 when Governor Mike Parson announced $50 in CARES Relief Act funding to be allocated to broadband needs across the state.
As part of the CARES Act funding, Mark Twain Communications received $131,100 to deploy a hybrid solution with fiber-to-the-home in Gorin and a fixed wireless solution to 178 households within southern Scotland County.
In 2020, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) made available $200 million in grants, an additional $200 million for 50% grant/ 50% loan projects, and $200 million for low interest loans to expand broadband service in the ReConnect Program. A second round of funding for the ReConnect program subsidized by CARES Relief Act funds helped produce more than $91 million in investments in Missouri’s broadband infrastructure.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in August of 2019 established the the $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to bring high speed fixed broadband service to rural homes and small businesses that lack it. On January 30, 2020, the FCC established the framework for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund using reverse auctions in two phases.
The Phase I auction, which began October 29, 2020, targeted over six million homes and businesses in census blocks that are entirely unserved by voice and broadband with download speeds of at least 25 Mbps. Missouri received more than $346 million as part of the project going to 17 Missouri broadband providers, including more than $4 million for projects in the NEMO RPC region.
NEMO RPC Rural Digital Opportunity Fund report
Lewis County will see $1.65 million invested to reach 432 locations while Clark County will receive $1.34 million to add 352 locations and Scotland County will receive $852,000 to add 184 locations. A total of 32 locations will be added in Adair County at the cost of roughly $220,000 while $15,300 will be invested in Knox County to add a single location. Schuyler County did not receive any funding.
Phase II will cover locations in census blocks that are partially served, as well as locations not funded in Phase I. The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund will ensure that networks stand the test of time by prioritizing higher network speeds and lower latency, so that those benefitting from these networks will be able to use tomorrow’s Internet applications as well as today’s.