by | Apr 17, 2023

State awards grants to deploy fiber across Missouri

The digital divide in rural Missouri is shrinking. The state of Missouri recently awarded $261 million through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program. That’s good news for members of Missouri’s electric cooperatives as seven co-ops were awarded a total of $93.2 million to connect their unserved and underserved members.

White River Connect — a subsidiary of White River Valley Electric Cooperative — received the largest grant in the state at $47.3 million. Groundbreaking on White River Connect’s five-year, $260 million fiber-optic buildout is set to begin later this year.

White River Connect CEO Beau Jackson says their fiber-to-the-home program is no small undertaking and will offer access to high-speed broadband to those who lack it. “We want everyone in our service area to have access to affordable and reliable internet services, regardless of what they earn and where they live,” he says. “This will be the largest investment that our co-op has made since its doors were opened in 1939.”

The Branson-based co-op held an event in March to announce the funds. BJ Tanksley, who heads the Missouri Office of Broadband Development, spoke to why the funding was so crucial to certain portions of the state. “Let’s face it, if private financing alone could have done it, those areas would already be served,” says BJ. “White River did a great job of laying out the why of why this funding was necessary to local communities.”

Local community support played an important role in the funding White River was awarded. Ozark, Stone and Taney counties combined to commit $9.3 million of their ARPA funds to serve as a local matching grant.

Other Missouri cooperatives awarded broadband grants include Co-Mo Connect, Tipton, $2.8 million; Grundy Electric Cooperative subsidiary, Mid-States Services, Trenton,  $6 million; Osage Valley Electric Cooperative Association, Butler, $9.5 million; Sac Osage Electric Cooperative, El Dorado Springs, $3 million; SEMO Electric Cooperative subsidiary, GoSEMO, $16.6 million and United Electric Cooperative subsidiary, United Services, Savannah, $8 million.

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