USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Donald “DJ” LaVoy. Photo by Jeremy Shields KKWK

Compiled from press release and on-site reports

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Donald “DJ” LaVoy joined Governor Mike Parson in Trenton, Missouri to announce another $60.9 million for high-speed broadband infrastructure that will create or improve e-Connectivity for more than 11,000 rural households, 81 farms, 73 businesses, 16 educational facilities, 12 critical community facilities, and two health care facilities in rural Missouri. The USDA’s ReConnect Pilot Program will support another five projects in Missouri:

  • Mid-States Services LLC will use a $3 million loan to provide unserved and underserved members in and around Trenton, Mo., with Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) broadband services. This investment is expected to reach 566 households, a highway patrol office, and an elementary school.
  • Total Highspeed LLC will use a $20.1 million loan and a $20.1 million grant to build a Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network to improve broadband services to families and businesses in rural Greene County. This investment is expected to reach 8,683 households, 20 pre-subscribed farms, 15 pre-subscribed businesses, eight critical community facilities, 12 educational facilities, and a health care center.
  • Gascosage Electric Cooperative, serving Camden, Maries, Miller, Phelps, and Pulaski counties, will use a $7 million loan and a $7 million grant to develop a Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband network for its most rural areas. The investment is expected to reach 20 pre-subscribed farms, 20 pre-subscribed businesses, 1,177 households, and two fire protection districts.
  • Green Hills Telephone Corporation will use a $2.6 million grant to expand its Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network to rural areas in Caldwell and Livingston counties. This investment is expected to reach 20 pre-subscribed farms, 20 pre-subscribed businesses, 546 households, a fire protection district and two educational facilities.
  • Marshall Municipal Utilities will use a $575,000 loan and a $575,000 grant to provide high-quality internet access to rural areas of Saline County. By expanding its current service area, an additional 21 pre-subscribed farms, 18 pre-subscribed businesses, 763 households, a private school, and a nursing home will have access to broadband.

In November of 2019, USDA awarded about $42 million to the Grand River Mutual Telephone Corporation to serve rural areas of Missouri and Southern Iowa.

Missouri U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt has pushed for broadband funding in the federal budget, supporting the $600 million for the program in 2018. The Blunt-backed FY2019 and FY2020 agriculture funding bills provided a total of $1.1 billion for the ReConnect Pilot Program.

Blunt said in a press statement, “The investment announced today marks another important step toward ending the digital divide that has left about one-third of rural Missourians without access to broadband. I’ll continue working with local, state, and federal officials to ensure every community has access to high-speed internet.”

Governor Mike Parson at the announcement in Trenton reiterated that there are ten school districts in Missouri that do not have broadband yet.

The state has given $5 million to match construction costs for broadband connections in Missouri. He has asked for another $5 million in the new state budget.

“If the rural coops can get electricity to every house in the state of Missouri, then we can get broadband to every house and every business in the state of Missouri,” he said.

Jeremy Shields of KKWK radio contributed to this report.