Two companies will be working on $85 million in projects to bring rural broadband to more than 60 rural Missouri counties, most of them in the Northern part of the state.

$66 million for those projects come from federal grants or loans. Governor Nixon says this is a huge step, as Missouri has been lagging behind other states in Midwest when it comes to high speed internet access.

“In areas like this, in these rural areas where it’s just a little more expensive to get it laid out there, Missouri had not leaned forward in a significant way… Our hope is that this will jump Missouri into a leadership role in the Midwest,” Nixon said.

Nixon says the projects should be done within 36 months under the terms of the grants.

Blue Bird Media out of Columbia will be working on the larger of the two projects. The company will work on the $65 million project to install more than 800 miles of fiber and 44 microwave towers, which can reach 600,000 Missourians in 59 counties.

“It is hard to believe that many Missourians don’t have access to reliable and affordable internet coverage. Approximately one third of the counties in our coverage area are below 30,000 in population,” said Otto Maly with Blue Bird Media.

United Electric will be handling the other project, worth about $20 million and covering six counties.

Meantime, Governor Nixon says there are a number of other proposals in the works to bring similar projects to other areas of the state.

“I’ve often compared the expansion of broadband in the first decade of this century to the expansion of the railroad in the 19th century and the construction of the interstate highways of the 20th centuries. Just as these routes of transportation helped change communities, so too will access to high speed broadband. Broadband is allowing us to transport information farther, faster, and more frequently than ever before,” Nixon said.