Gov. Jay Nixon today visited the headquarters of Sho-Me Power and Sho-Me Technologies in Marshfield to announce that the state and Sho-Me Technologies have partnered together to apply for $142.3 million in federal recovery funds to significantly expand the reach of broadband Internet service in Missouri. A critical piece of the five-year MoBroadbandNow Project, this initiative would expand broadband accessibility to 91.5 percent of the total population, a significant increase from current projected accessibility of 79.7 percent.
Under the application, which will be filed Thursday, Aug. 13, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Commerce, the state and Sho-Me Technologies will request $142,300,000 in federal recovery funds to help lay 2,500 miles of fiber-optic cable and construct 200 new broadband towers across the state. To make this project feasible, the state of Missouri would provide $25.2 million in matching funds if the application is approved and funded, and Sho-Me Technologies would contribute $8.375 million in fiber lines along the new network.
"Just as the railroads and interstates transformed Missouri communities in decades past, this massive undertaking would truly help connect every corner of Missouri with the information superhighway of the future," Gov. Nixon said. "This project has the potential to connect doctors and patients across our state at the speed of light; open the doors of our colleges and universities to students in every corner of Missouri; and expand markets for our small businesses not only around Missouri, but all across the globe. We will compete for every possible dollar to turn this project into reality and bring the tremendous resources of broadband Internet to homes and businesses in nearly every community in the Show-Me State."
The state's $25.2 million in matching funds would help purchase the equipment to connect the new fiber across the state. While the equipment would serve the needs of both the state and Sho-Me Technologies, the state would actually own the equipment. The state matching funds provided for this project would come from a $40 million allocation, from the federal budget stabilization fund, approved by the legislature this year for broadband enhancement projects.
Known as a "middle-mile" project, MoBroadbandNow would bring a high-speed broadband connection into currently underserved or unserved communities. "Last-mile" service providers, such as local utility or cable companies, then would provide direct Internet access to homes, businesses and other customers either wirelessly or by laying additional fiber lines.
"Our company is thrilled to be partnering with Gov. Nixon to expand access to broadband for families and businesses all across Missouri," said Gary Fulks, the General Manager of Sho-Me Power and Sho-Me Technologies. "For years, Sho-Me Power and Sho-Me Technologies have provided reliable, affordable power and broadband access to the people of rural Missouri. We feel this project will help us enhance our service to the people of Missouri by significantly expanding the accessibility of broadband communications throughout the state - far faster than would have been possible otherwise."
Both directly and indirectly, the benefits to Missourians of expanded broadband and Internet access are dramatic. For instance, this project would help establish the necessary infrastructure for more Missouri hospitals and clinics to take advantage of telemedicine and electronic medical records systems, which could significantly enhance efficiency, accuracy and cost-savings throughout the health care industry.
"The Internet holds the potential to help every Missourian lead a healthier, more productive life, and to bring about real savings for the people of our state," Gov. Nixon said. "It's time to close the divide between communities with broadband access and those without, and this project will help us accomplish that goal."
Missouri is also partnering with a number of "last-mile," local Internet Service Providers to submit applications for recovery funds to extend broadband connections from the new MoBroadbandNow backbone to consumers in rural Missouri. Among these "last-mile" partners are Big River Telephone, Ralls County Electric Cooperative and Poplar Bluff Internet, which, in total, are seeking recovery act funding to extend high-speed Internet service, at fair prices, to more than 60,000 rural Missourians who currently lack such a connection.
First-round applications for recovery act broadband funds are due Friday, Aug. 14. The first-round federal review process is scheduled to take approximately 45 days, after which qualified projects will undergo further review. Initial award announcements are expected in December. This week, Gov. Nixon is taking a number of steps to underscore the scope and potential of the MoBroadbandNow application, including having personal conversations with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.