Missouri Governor Jay Nixon yesterday announced that the state has partnered with Sho-Me Power and Sho-Me Technologies to apply for $142.3 million in broadband stimulus funds to expand broadband Internet access.
The federal funds would provide much of the capital required to lay 2,500 miles of fiber optic cable and build 200 new broadband towers across the state. As such, the project would contribute greatly to realizing the goals of the state’s MoBroadbandNow project by increasing broadband accessibility in Missouri from a currently projected 79.7% to 91.5%. Some 60,000 Missourians currently lack a broadband connection, according to the state.
If approved, Sho-Me Technologies would contribute $8.375 million in fiber lines and the state would kick in $25.2 million in matching funds to purchase the equipment needed to connect them. The state’s matching funds would come from from a $40 million allocation from its federal budget stabilization fund, which the legislature approved for broadband enhancement projects this year.
A “middle-mile” project, MoBroadbandNow aims to bring high-speed broadband connections to under- and unserved communities. As envisaged, ShoMe would build the network, the state would own it and local broadband service providers would provide last-mile network connectivity. The initiative includes partnerships with local broadband carriers such as Big River Telephone, Ralls County Electric Cooperative and Poplar Bluff Internet, to file applications for recovery funds that would facilitate this.
First round federal recovery act broadband fund applications are due to be filed this Friday with the review process expected to take around 45 days to complete. Qualified projects will then be considered in a second-round review.
“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 while speaking at Sho-Me’s headquarters in Marshfield.
Missouri’s application will be watched closely. Should it prove successful, it may serve as a model for other states in the two subsequent broadband stimulus funding rounds.