Over $81.5M will increase broadband access to communities across the state

WASHINGTON, D.C. - As rural communities work to create economic development and new jobs in a difficult economic climate, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill today applauded the new broadband funding coming to rural Missouri communities. Through these competitive grant awards, Missouri telecommunications providers will receive a total of $81,631,921 in federal funding for rural broadband development projects as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Earlier this summer, McCaskill hosted a forum with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski, who is leading the federal government's broadband initiatives. Key local leaders from Missouri for whom broadband Internet is particularly important, including members of the education, emergency response and economic development communities, were also in attendance to discuss how the expansion of broadband can benefit their communities. All of Missouri's applicants for broadband money from the Recovery Act were also invited.

"It's clear how important increasing broadband access is to Missouri's rural communities. Broadband Internet means jobs and economic development, as well as great improvements in healthcare, public safety, and education. This investment from the stimulus funds will help boost businesses and communities in rural Missouri," McCaskill said.

In a world where businesses are increasingly relying on the Internet to bring new levels of efficiency and creativity to their business models, some areas of the United States are falling behind due to unavailability of high-speed Internet. In 32 counties in Missouri, more than 50 percent of households do not have high-speed broadband (4 mbps broadband ability). For each percentage point increase in the availability of broadband Internet nationwide, the economy will see 300,000 new private sector jobs added.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the following Missouri organizations will receive funding:

• Big River Broadband of Cape Girardeau will use a $24.3 million award to bring high speed Internet access to a seven county area in southeast Missouri at download speeds up to 14.4 megabytes per second. The network will allow access to more than 100,000 people, 7,500 businesses and 300 community organizations.

• Finally Broadband of Seymour will receive a $1 million award to provide broadband Internet services to families and businesses. The network will benefit more than 100,000 people 7,000 businesses and 400 community institutions.

• Grand River Mutual will receive over $21.3 million in federal grants to provide broadband service to the towns of Browning, Purdin, Linneus, Meadville, Denver, Gentry and New Hampton. The increase in broadband access will benefit 1100 businesses and 28 other community institutions, serving 4,300 people.

• Orchard Farm Telephone Company of St. Charles will use over $604,000 in federal grants to bring high-speed Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) broadband service to underserved establishments within its rural service area. The increase in high-speed DSL will benefit more than 221 people, 47 businesses and 3 community institutions.

• Socket Telecom of Columbia will receive over $23 million to begin offering Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) service to households, businesses, and critical community organizations that are currently underserved in mid-Missouri. The network will benefit 6,500 people, more than 260 businesses, and 36 community institutions.

• Utopian Wireless will use a $250,000 award to bring Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX) infrastructure to rural communities in and around Benton. The network will benefit more than 2,600 people, approximately 56 local businesses and 30 community organizations.

• Windstream Corporation will receive a $10.3 million federal grant to extend its broadband network to provide broadband to currently unserved homes and businesses. The project will benefit more than 10,000 people, approximately 200 businesses and 40 community institutions.

In addition to the economic benefits, rural broadband access allows schools and libraries to utilize technologies that aren't available with dial-up Internet, and helps with emergency response. Broadband also significantly helps improve health care services in areas with low populations by promoting telemedicine technology, which allows doctors to communicate with patients using video-conferencing tools.

U.S. businesses, both large and small, depend on broadband services to run various facets of their businesses, including tracking inventory, monitoring consumer relations, and forecasting product sales. Studies show that communities in which broadband is widely available experience greater growth in employment, greater increases in the overall number of businesses, and a greater number of businesses in the information technology sectors.