NEW BLOOMFIELD — Access to rural broadband internet should become easier in the next year with the passage of a Missouri law and the awarding of federal grants from the Federal Communication Commission.
The budget that passed the legislature last week included $5 million toward the new Rural Broadband Development Fund, and the FCC has recently announced more than $25 million in federal grants from the Connect America Fund (CAF).
Missouri's grant program will be housed in the Department of Economic Development and is designed to expand broadband internet access to unserved and under-served parts of the state. Priority will be given to areas that are unserved, areas that can procure matching funds, and under-served areas, in that order of priority, according to a Missouri House website. The grants are for acquiring and installing "middle-mile and last-mile infrastructure that support internet speeds of at least 25 megabits per second download and three megabit per second upload."
However, no state grants will be awarded to areas that have already received money through the FCC's Connect America Fund, which has awarded $25.4 million to rural areas, including $17.6 million to Wisper ISP and $1.1 million to AirLink Rural Broadband.
Missouri currently ranks #42 in connectivity among the states, according to BroadbandNow.com.