Missouri’s Department of Economic Development (DED) has awarded $12 million through its Cell Towers Grant Program. The awards are going to three organizations for a total of 29 projects.
UScellular, which applied for funding as USCOC of Greater Missouri, won $5.8 million to go toward 11 towers.
AT&T, which applied for funding as New Cingular Wireless, PCS, LLC, won $3.2 million to go toward 14 towers.
The third winner was Branch Tower VI LLC, which won $3 million to go toward four towers.
The funding will be used to build new towers for improved cellular service and greater 911 connectivity to high-cost areas. The program is funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and is focused on investing in the expansion of cellular service statewide. The newly funded projects are expected to serve more than 17,000 high-need locations that previously lacked quality cellular service.
Missouri’s program, administered by DED’s Office of Broadband Development, was launched in the spring and funds public-private projects. Applicants must contribute private funding in addition to grant funds.
Eligible entities included cellular service providers who own their own towers or could demonstrate a partnership with a tower owner, as well as tower owners that can demonstrate a partnership with a cellular provider. Projects must provide quality service (4G LTE or higher), provide 911 service and be located in unserved high-cost areas, which are those with less than 50 persons per square mile.
According to funding guidelines for the first round, applicants could request between $25,000 and $300,000 for retrofit/refurbishments. New tower applicants could request between $100,000 and $750,000. The maximum per applicant per cycle is $8 million.
“We’re excited to help meet needs for cellular service through the Cell Towers Grant Program,” BJ Tanksley, director of the Office of Broadband Development, said in a prepared statement. “While progress has been made, reliable connectivity remains a major challenge for many hard-to-serve areas across our state. We encourage involvement in the program’s second round as we continue toward our goal of connecting all Missourians.”
DED opened a second round of funding through the Cell Towers Grant Program last week. Of the original $20 million appropriated by Missouri Governor Mike Parson and the General Assembly, $7.9 million will be available for eligible providers and tower owners for the construction of new towers.
The rules for that round are quite similar to the rules for the first round. Eligible entities have until November 10 to apply.
Joan Engebretson contributed to this report