Following Questions, FCC Releases Missouri Broadband Funds

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday released funding for an Illinois company's broadband program in Missouri, a day after U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley raised questions about progress on the projects.

by Roger McKinney, Columbia Daily Tribune / February 14, 2020
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(TNS) — The Federal Communication Commission on Thursday released funding for an Illinois company's broadband program in Missouri, a day after U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley raised questions about progress on the projects.

The FCC issued a news release that it had authorized release of almost $176 million in funding over 10 years for Wisper ISP, which won the contracts in an August 2018 auction. The company is supposed to connect more than 68,000 rural homes and businesses to high-speed internet.

Wisper ISP, of Mascoutah, Ill., won the largest share of Missouri's $255 million in federal support in the auction.

Wisper CEO Nathan Stooke on Wednesday said he thought funding was close to being released.

The company is receiving $443,556 in Boone County to connect 483 homes and businesses. Twenty-six homes and businesses would be connected in Cooper County for $25,463.

Wisper will spend nearly $8 million in Camden County to connect 3,848 homes and businesses.

"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," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a news release.

Nationwide, the FCC on Thursday announced more than $240 million in funding for rural broadband in nine states. It's the ninth round of funding from the 2018 Connect America Fund Phase II auction.

Hawley, R-Mo., in a news release and letter to Pai on Wednesday, questioned Wisper's progress on the project.

Hawley asked Pai for a project update and how many of the 60,000 locations had been connected and if the company was on schedule.

The company hasn't connected any locations because it had not received the money, Stooke said Wedneday.

"You have made your commitment to closing the digital divide clear," Hawley wrote in his letter to Pai. "I, along with all Missourians, look forward to your answers and seeing these funds deployed quickly and efficiently to the areas that need them most."

The FCC isn't the only federal agency working on rural broadband expansion. The U.S. Department of Agriculture in January awarded nearly $61 million for broadband infrastructure to serve 11,000 rural households as well as farms, schools and other users in rural Missouri.

No one from Wisper or Hawley's office could be reached for comment Thursday.

©2020 Columbia Daily Tribune, Mo. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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