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Feds Earmark $300M in New Grant Money for Rural Broadband

Federal officials announced nearly $300 million in new grant money meant to expand access to high-speed Internet, part of a larger ongoing effort to make broadband more widely available across the country.

rural broadband internet
(TNS) — Federal officials on Friday announced nearly $300 million in new grant money meant to expand access to high-speed internet, part of a larger ongoing effort from the federal government to make broadband internet more widely available across the country.

The funds are earmarked for 13 states or territories, including Kentucky, Washington and Missouri, and are expected to give more than 130,000 households the ability to use faster internet service, according to a senior official with the Department of Commerce.

Expanding broadband Internet to areas without it has been a priority of President Joe Biden’s administration, which spearheaded passage of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure law last year that included tens of billions of dollars to increase access to the service.

“Today’s awards are another example of the Biden administration’s commitment to closing the digital divide and building strong partnerships with those who can help us expand internet access,” said Gina Raimondo, Commerce Department secretary, in a statement.

The money from these grants, however, comes from an appropriations bill approved by Congress in late 2020, according to Senior Commerce Department officials.

Administration officials are still waiting on new maps from the Federal Communications Commission to determine which areas have no access to high-speed internet before distributing the bulk of money appropriated by the infrastructure law, a process expected to last until the summer.

Commerce officials said this round of investments will help lay the groundwork for the coming larger investment.

In Missouri, for instance, the state’s Department of Economic Development is receiving about $42 million to expand high-speed internet access to more than 13,000 households in a dozen counties, including Butler, Marion, Shelby, Monroe, Jasper, Pulaski, Lincoln, St. Charles, St. Louis, Livingston, McDonald and Boone counties.

In Washington, the state Department of Commerce will receive $30 million to expand access to more than 7,000 households in rural areas, including in Ferry, Jefferson, Kittitas, Okanogan and Stevens counties.

And in Scott County, Kentucky, the federal government is awarding roughly $3 million grant to connect more than 5,000 households to high-speed broadband.

Advocates for high-speed internet access say it is a necessary part of modern life, allowing users to do everything from conduct business to attend school even in remote locations. Its scarcity in rural areas, they say, is a reason the region is losing population and struggling economically.

The total amount of grant money announced Friday is $277 million.

© 2022 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.