Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Gov. Nixon Announces $85 Million in Broadband Stimulus for Missouri

Gov. Nixon Announces $85 Million Investment to Bring Broadband to Homes, Businesses, Institutions across Northern Missouri

Office of Governor Nixon Press Release via 08/18/2010 San Francisco - Two partners working with the State of Missouri to expand the availability of broadband Internet will invest $85 million to connect 660,000 homes and businesses across northern Missouri, Gov. Jay Nixon announced today. This investment includes $66.3 million in competitive funding awarded under the federal Recovery Act.

Gov. Jay Nixon (D-MO) with President Obama
in July in Kansas City, MO.
(AP Photo)
"As I have said from my first day in office, the State of Missouri was going to make broadband a top priority," Gov. Nixon said. "Working hand in hand with our partners, we are competing for every dollar to transform communities across Missouri."

BlueBird Media will use its grant of $45,145,250 from the U.S. Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to construct an ultra-high capacity middle-mile network that will make broadband affordable and accessible to approximately 600,000 households and 57,000 businesses. BlueBird's service area covers 59 counties in the northern half of Missouri and the city of St. Louis. The company will provide a cash match of $9.1 million to the federal grant, and the State of Missouri will provide an in-kind, non-monetary match of $10.5 million that includes use of right-of-ways on state roadways, for a total project cost of approximately $65 million.

United Electric Cooperative received a grant of $14,849,173 and a loan of $6,363,933 (for a total project cost of $21,213,106) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to build a last-mile network to bring broadband to more than 4,200 households and businesses in six counties in northwest Missouri.

BlueBird Media and United Electric Cooperative are part of a public/private partnership called MoBroadbandNow, an initiative created by Gov. Nixon last year to dramatically expand the reach of broadband across Missouri.

With today's announcement, the Governor's initiative has successfully obtained $134.5 million in federal funds in 2010 for both middle-mile and last-mile broadband projects, with additional applications pending.

BlueBird will construct 809 miles of new fiber and 44 new microwave towers. That ultra high-capacity network, stretching across north Missouri, will be the backbone infrastructure for last-mile providers to deliver broadband to homes, businesses, schools, libraries, hospitals, public safety agencies and other facilities. United will build a 1,370-mile advanced, fiber-to-the-home network that will bring broadband directly to homes, businesses and institutions.

High-speed broadband has not reached many parts of Missouri because of the cost of building middle-mile and last-mile networks. Gov. Nixon said the expansion of broadband through the Recovery Act awards would enable Missouri businesses to be more competitive, Missouri physicians and hospitals to better serve patients, Missouri schools to provide a fuller education to students, and Missouri consumers to more efficiently utilize the benefits of the Internet.

"Just as the railroads and interstates transformed Missouri communities in decades past, these projects will help connect much of northern Missouri with the information superhighway of the future," Gov. Nixon said. "They have the potential to connect doctors and patients at the speed of light; open the doors of our colleges and universities to more students; and expand markets for small businesses to not only the rest of the state, but to markets across the globe."

A key part of the broadband proposals is that they would provide high-speed connections to what are called community anchor institutions, including schools, colleges, hospitals, libraries and public safety agencies. BlueBird's proposal includes as many as 350 community anchor points, including 213 public schools, 60 public safety entities, 10 community colleges, 30 health care facilities, and 28 government facilities. The United project will provide high-speed connections to 150 community anchor institutions, including 33 schools, 38 health care facilities, 31 public safety entities, five libraries, and three correctional institutions.

Notably, both projects will enable health care institutions to initiate regional health information exchanges and expand telemedicine capabilities, including advanced medical imaging and medical collaboration in rural areas.

The Governor said other applications that expanded broadband will provide to communities across northern Missouri include greater capacity for e-commerce, which will benefit businesses and consumers; increased opportunities for long-distance learning for students at colleges and universities, as well as in grades K-12; and better public safety, through enhanced communications to and from police and sheriffs' departments, emergency services and correctional institutions.

"This public-private partnership will create jobs and extend economic opportunity to rural areas," Otto Maly, a partner in BlueBird Media, said. "We will now be able to offer a broadband network throughout northern Missouri, including several areas where there is little or no infrastructure. The State of Missouri has joined with the federal government and private companies to ensure all Missourians have access to an affordable and high capacity internet service. We're proud to be a part of it."

The BlueBird project is expected to create 706 jobs for a two-year period during construction, with another 40 ongoing jobs after the network is implemented. The United project is expected to create 113 jobs.

On Aug. 4, three other MoBroadbandNow partners received awards totaling $49.1 million for last-mile projects. The BlueBird middle-mile project will provide service to one of those partners, Socket Telecom, which received $23.7 million to build its network in Callaway County and parts of Boone County. Big River Telephone, another successful applicant, received $24.4 million to create a network reaching homes and businesses in seven southeast Missouri counties. The other partner, Finally Broadband, received $1 million to help expand broadband in south central Missouri.

In the first round of grants announced by the federal government in January, Ralls County Electric Cooperative, a MoBroadbandNow partner based in New London, received a $19.1 million competitive award to expand broadband Internet to residential and commercial customers in northeast Missouri.Additional broadband awards are expected to be announced by the end of September.

Gov. Nixon has taken a number of steps to underscore the scope and potential of the MoBroadbandNow applications, including personal conversations with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

A top priority of the administration, the MoBroadbandNow initiative was created by the Governor to coordinate the state's efforts to expand broadband in Missouri in response to the federal recovery act passed last year. Its primary goal was to dramatically expand the reach of high-speed Internet throughout Missouri with a focus of ensuring that the state of Missouri competed aggressively for every broadband dollar included in the federal recovery legislation.

There are 59 counties that will be served by the BlueBird project, including Adair, Andrew, Atchison, Audrain, Boone, Buchanan, Caldwell, Callaway, Carroll, Cass, Chariton, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Cole, Cooper, Daviess, DeKalb, Franklin, Gasconade, Gentry, Grundy, Harrison, Holt, Howard, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Knox, Lafayette, Lewis, Lincoln, Linn, Livingston, Macon, Marion, Mercer, Moniteau, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Nodaway, Osage, Pettis, Pike, Platte, Putnam, Ralls, Randolph, Ray, Saline, Schuyler, Scotland, Shelby, St. Charles, St. Louis, Sullivan, Warren and Worth. The City of St. Louis also is in the BlueBird service area.

The six counties served by the United project include Andrew, Buchanan, Clinton, DeKalb, Gentry and Nodaway.
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