JEFFERSON CITY— Missouri is seeking $142 million of federal stimulus money to expand high-speed Internet access to remote parts of the state.
A project proposal being submitted Thursday to the federal government would lay 2,500 miles of fiber-optic cable and construct 200 broadband towers across the state. Local Internet service providers then would hook into the system to provide coverage to homes and businesses.
"Just as the railroads and interstates transformed Missouri communities in decades past, this massive undertaking would truly help connect every corner of Missouri with the information superhighway of the future," Gov. Jay Nixon said Wednesday.
High-speed Internet is available to fewer than 80 percent of Missouri residents. The proposal would extend access to more than 91.5 percent of the state's population, Nixon said.
The federal stimulus package includes $7.2 billion for broadband expansion nationally, most of which is aimed at underserved rural areas. The funding is to be distributed through competitive grants and loans.
Missouri is proposing to match its requested federal grant with $25.2 million that the state previously received under the stimulus act. A subsidiary of the Marshfield-based Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative would contribute $8.4 million worth of fiber lines for the expanded network.
Nixon said the project could provide the infrastructure needed for hospitals and medical clinics to make better use of telemedicine and electronic health records.
"This project has the potential to connect doctors and patients across our state at the speed of light; open the doors of our colleges and universities to students in every corner of Missouri; and expand markets for our small businesses not only around Missouri, but all across the globe," Nixon said.
The federal government is expected to announce awards for the high-speed Internet grants in December, the governor's office said.
Nixon said Missouri also was working with local Internet service providers to apply for stimulus funds to build the "last-mile" extensions of the proposed broadband network.