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Blunt Welcomes USDA’s $91.5 Million Investment to Expand Broadband in Rural Missouri

October 22, 2020

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) commended the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) announcement that it is investing an additional $91.5 million in grant funding through the ReConnect Pilot Program to expand rural broadband in Missouri. The Blunt-backed FY2020 government funding bill included $550 million for the program, which targets areas that currently lack access to broadband and includes provisions that prevent overbuilding existing infrastructure.

“The pandemic has brought even more attention to how critical connectivity is to education, health care, and jobs,” said Blunt. “Ending the digital divide will level the playing field for people in rural areas who haven’t had the same opportunities to compete and succeed. I’ll continue working to ensure we have the policies and resources in place to address one of the most important economic and quality of life issues facing our rural areas.”

“In Missouri and across the country, technology and innovation are vital to agricultural production,” said USDA Farm Service Agency Administrator Richard Fordyce. “Our commitment to invest in rural America cannot be achieved without addressing the digital divide our rural communities face because of a lack of high-speed broadband internet.”

Missouri received nearly 20 percent of the total nationwide allocation for this grant cycle. With today’s announcement, Missouri has received nearly $200 million in funding through the program over the past two years, including: $3 million in August 2020; $60.9 million in January 2020; and $41.6 million in November 2019.

Blunt supported the creation of the ReConnect Pilot Program in the FY2018 government funding bill, and supported additional funding for the program in the FY2019 and FY2020 funding bills.

Following are the details of the awardees announced today, according to USDA:

  • The Stoutland Telephone Company, doing business as (DBA) Missouricom, will use a $4.6 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network, which connect 2,390 people, 78 farms and 12 businesses to high-speed broadband internet in Dallas, Camden and Laclede counties.

  • Marshall Municipal Utilities will use a $7.5 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network, which will connect 3,890 people, 433 farms, 63 businesses, two public schools, a fire station and a post office to high-speed broadband internet in Saline County.

  • Steelville Telephone Exchange, DBA STE Communications, will use a $14.8 million ReConnect grant and a $14.8 million ReConnect loan. As a result, STE Communications will deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 4,756 people, 314 farms, 55 businesses, two fire stations and a post office to high-speed broadband internet in Iron, Dent, Crawford and Washington counties.

  • Total Highspeed LLC was awarded a $24.9 million ReConnect grant and a $24.9 million ReConnect loan. These funds will provide a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 26,077 people, 720 farms, 417 businesses, nine fire stations and five public schools to high-speed broadband internet in Christian, Greene, Lawrence, Stone, and Webster counties.

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