broadbandThe state of Missouri has released rules and deadlines for the Missouri Broadband Grant Program adopted by legislators earlier this year. The program targets unserved and underserved rural areas and is open to a wide range of entities, including businesses, non-profit organizations, political subdivisions and rural electric cooperatives.

The state will begin accepting applications December 5, with a deadline of January 7.

The maximum amount of funding an entity can request is $5 million, and projects requesting $500,000 or less will be given higher priority. Applicants must cover at least 50% of the total project cost.

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A state of Missouri webpage about the program does not indicate the program budget, but local media outlet KRCG reported earlier this year that it was $5 million.

Missouri Broadband Grant Program
According to Missouri Broadband Grant Program guidelines, project areas must lack broadband connectivity at speeds of 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream to have priority, but some funding also may go to areas lacking service at speeds of 25/3 Mbps. Funding recipients must deploy service at speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps.

The program is borrowing an idea that was successfully used in the Connect America Fund CAF II auction and will use a weighting system that favors applicants that pledge to deploy higher speed service.

Applicants that offer to cover a higher percentage of project costs also will have priority. Projects also will be scored based on:

  • Project readiness
  • Project sustainability
  • Community participation
  • Economic development and community impact review
  • Broadband adoption assistance

The program administrators apparently are aware of the limitations of  FCC broadband availability data based on information collected from service providers on Form 477. That data is widely believed to overstate broadband availability. Accordingly, the state gives applicants the option of providing additional information beyond what was gathered via the Form 477 process to “demonstrate that the proposed service area is, in fact, unserved or underserved so as to be eligible for grant funding.”

The program, however, is not open to project areas where funding from the Connect America Fund has been awarded, where high-cost Universal Service Fund has been received by a rate of return carrier or where any other federal funding has been awarded which did not require a matching fund component.

State-level broadband funding programs such as the new one in Missouri seem to have gotten a boost from the USDA’s ReConnect program, which provides grant and loan funding to unserved and underserved rural areas and which gives priority to projects in states that have broadband funding programs.

Image courtesy of flickr user Sean MacEntee.

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