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January 27, 2014

Missouri Town Explores High-speed Broadband Project



By Michelle Nicolson
TMCnet Contributing Writer



A rural community in Missouri is exploring the possibility of installing a $5.8 million fiber-optic network with help from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Utilities Service Broadband Initiative.

Representatives from the city of Carl Junction, Mo., population 7,445, met with USDA officials to discuss the city’s application for funding to cover the network installation, including the conduits, fiber optics and electronics, as well as a central office where the electronics would be stored.

The goal of the project would be to connect all Carl Junction residents and businesses to the fiber-optic network, boosting economic development in the area.

Carl Junction has an “unbelievable array of home-based businesses,” explained City Administrator Steve Lawver. The fiber-optic network would enable users to download and upload at 1,000 megabits per second.

“Your limits pretty much go away,” Lawver said. 

The city of Carl Junction conducted a feasibility study about a fiber-optic network back in 2012 that garnered public interest in the project. If it receives funding and moves forward, service providers would enter a contractual agreement to use the network to offer digital services—such as Internet, cable and phone—to subscribers.

Lawver said the project is a subscription-based, so those who don’t subscribe don’t pay.

The city is applying for funding from the USDA’s Broadband Initiatives Program. BIP funding involves loans, grant, and loan/grant combinations designed to assist rural areas with the challenge of rapidly expanding the access and quality of broadband services.

Initial funding for the BIP program came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which provided $2.5 billion to expand access to broadband services in rural America. As of August 2013, the USDA reports more than $2.33 billion in grants and $1.19 billion in loans were made to 320 projects, totaling more than $3.5 billion. Of those original 320 projects, 297 were for infrastructure, 4 for satellite broadband service support and 19 for technical assistance, the majority of which went to tribal communities.

"Access to broadband is one of the most important investments in rural communities today," explained Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "These awards will help create jobs, and give rural residents greater access to educational, health care and social services." 




Edited by Ryan Sartor
 
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