FCC funding broadband internet expansion in rural Missouri

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FULTON - The Federal Communications Commision (FCC) is giving $24.1 million dollars to expand broadband internet access to areas of rural Missouri. 

The FCC selected Callabyte Technology- a subsidary of Callaway Electric Cooperative in Fulton and CoMo Connect- a subsidary of Co-Mo Electric Cooperative in Tipton.

Callabyte Technology will receive $2.17 million to service 1,485 customers and CoMo Connect will receive $21.97 million. 

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the funds will "bring [rural communities] to the right side of the digital divide and give them access to the 21st century opportunities that broadband offers."

The FCC grant is part of the government's Connect America program which looks to spend $1.98 billion to expand broadband access to rural American communities within 10 years.

CEO of Callaway Electric Cooperative, Clint Smith, said the lack of broadband internet access in rural communities is an issue of cost. 

"For a mile of investment in fiber optic lines there are very few people living within that mile to pay of that investment," Smith said.

A 2018 FCC report found more than 14 million Americans living in rural areas lasck access to to broadband internet- which it defines as internet with download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second and upload speeds of at least 3 mbps.

Smith said the increase in internet access will translate to increasing development for rural communities.

"We look at it as economic development here," Smith said. "It should contribute to growth in Callaway County by providing more to tax bases."

The grant money will be given to the company over a 10 year period.

Under the grant, the FCC requires the companies to make service available to at least 40 percent of the expanded areas within three years and 100 percent of the area within six years.

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