The Federal Communications Commission authorized more than $175 million funding over 10 years for the expansion of rural broadband has been authorized for Missouri.
The funding will help connect more than 68,000 unserved rural homes and businesses in Missouri. The plan calls for $367,151 in spending to connect 131 locations in Christian County.
The money has been awarded to Wisper, ISP, a company based in Mascoutah, Illinois that offers high speed internet service in Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. Its services are concentrated in the St. Louis, Kansas City, Joplin and Lake of the Ozarks areas.
In 2018, Wisper won a federal auction to provide broadband services in Missouri in exchange for the federal funding.
The FCC announced the funding agreement on Feb. 13, a day after U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai about the status of the broadband project.
“Today’s announcement is another important step in our efforts to close the digital divide and connect rural residents of Missouri with the economic, healthcare, and educational opportunities made possible by high-speed broadband,” Pai said. “In my travels around the country, I’ve had the opportunity to see firsthand how funding provided through the FCC’s Connect America Fund Phase II auction is having a positive impact on rural communities. And the funding we are approving today will build on that success as we connect more rural Americans with digital opportunity.”
Nationwide, the FCC today announced more than $240 million in funding for rural broadband across nine states. This represents the ninth wave of support from the 2018 successful Connect America Fund Phase II auction.
Per the terms of the agreement, Wisper ISP must build out to 40 percent of the assigned homes and businesses in the areas won in Missouri within three years. Buildout must increase by 20 percent in each subsequent year, until complete buildout is reached at the end of the sixth year.
According to BroadbandNow.com, a research website dedicated to providing insights and data on broadband internet access throughout the United States, 85.6 percent of Missourians have access to wired broadband at a download speed at or above 25 megabits per second. Only 38.6 percent of Missourians have access to one-gigabit broadband. The benchmark download speed in the industry is considered to be 100 megabits per second, and 81.7 percent of Missourians have access to such download speeds, meaning that about 19 percent of the state’s population is underserved, according to BroadbandNow.
“The latest data from the Federal Communications Commission shows 45 percent of residents in rural parts of my state do not have access to wired broadband service,” Hawley wrote in his letter to the FCC chairman. “Missouri ranked 41st in the country for its limited connectivity. I hear regularly from Missourians who are concerned that their communities are being left behind.”
The site’s data shows that about 10 percent of Christian County residents are underserved when it comes to broadband access.
Some of Christian County’s neighbors stand to see substantial federal dollars at work as part of the Wisper project. Greene County was designated $2.7 million for 1,338 connections, while Lawrence County will see $2 million for 569 connections.