A new $5 million broadband grant program will bring high-speed internet access to eligible communities in both urban and rural areas of Missouri.

The departments of Economic Development and Agriculture define unserved areas as those that do not have access to wired or fixed wireless broadband internet service and underserved as those with speeds of 10 megabits per second for download, and 1 megabit per second for upload, according to the economic development website.

As previously reported in the Missourian, the issue of providing high-speed internet to unserved communities has been on the minds of officials for the last year. At an MU engagement week session held in October, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe told the audience that Gov. Mike Parson’s top priorities are infrastructure and workforce development, which are both connected to internet access.

The grant program was created in 2018 by the Missouri General Assembly and was funded in 2019 during the legislative session. Parson said in a news release, “It’s a huge problem that nearly 20% of Missourians lack access to high-speed internet.”

He said that lack of access to high-speed internet is the kind of problem that needs to be addressed because it affects many other issues for Missourians such as “retaining good talent or offering better health care and education for our communities.”

Tim Arbeiter, director of the recently formed state Broadband Development Office, said that although the federal government has created a variety of programs to address the issue, this is the first time the state has launched a grant to facilitate broadband infrastructure.

“We know that this is an expensive endeavor for those who are deploying broadband and those who have a desire to,” Arbeiter said. “As a state, we want to provide resources, by matching up to 50% of construction costs, in order to partner with current broadband curators and those who are interested.”

Arbeiter said a goal of the grant is to encourage more development. He said “the $5 million will hopefully leverage an additional $5 million in broadband employment. It’s a good start.”

The application to apply to receive funds from the grant will open Dec. 5 and will close 4 p.m. Jan. 7. The grants award will be announced March 5, 2020. Projects must either provide service or increase it to speeds of 25 mbps download and 3 mbps upload.

Supervising editor is Mark Horvit .

  • State government reporter for the Missourian. Studying investigative journalism. Reach me at judyylucas@gmail.com or in the newsroom at 573-882-5700.

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