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Eight Companies to Receive South Dakota Broadband Funding

A total of $5 million from Connect South Dakota will be split between Internet service providers in the hopes of expanding access in underserved parts of the state.

(TNS) — Eight companies have been awarded a total of $5 million in the first round of grant funding from Connect South Dakota.

Mitchell Telecom was among those companies, receiving $441,470 from the state program focused on funding broadband projects in unserved and underserved areas.

Legislators approved this first round of funding in March. Governor Kristi Noem's office announced Tuesday that all projects for which funding was awarded are "shovel ready" and will be finished by the end of the year. They're expected to impact 4,800 people and 100 businesses.

Others awarded grant money included Alliance Communications in Garretson, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Telephone Authority in Eagle Butte, Interstate Telecommunications Cooperative in Clear Lake, RC Technologies in New Effington and Midco Communications and Vast Broadband, both based in Sioux Falls.

More than half the total funding was awarded to Highmore-based Venture Communications.

According to Scott Peper, general manager and CEO, Mitchell Telecom's funding will be used to expand its fiber optic network in a way that connects 250 homes and seven businesses to the south, west and northeast of Mitchell, giving people in those areas the same services as current Mitchell Telecom customers.

"The program is a great opportunity not only for our company but the entire state to improve broadband connectivity in areas of need," Peper said.

Work on Mitchell Telecom's project is expected to be completed by late fall.

Noem said an assessment found the highest level of need for broadband funding was in areas around cities and towns, which have a lower population density but aren't considered rural enough to receive broadband funding from the federal level.

"Sixty-five percent of kids in elementary school today will work in jobs that don't yet exist. These jobs will almost certainly require access to a high-speed internet connection," Noem said. "Raising the next generation with access to online resources is our responsibility as parents and citizens."

©2019 The Daily Republic (Mitchell, S.D.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.