The Department of Economic Development (DED) announced today that Missouri has been awarded a total of nearly $3 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to enhance the ongoing efforts of the Office of Broadband Development to expand high-speed internet access statewide.
“Our commitment to strengthen Missouri’s infrastructure includes broadband expansion, which is a critical need for rural and urban areas alike,” said Governor Mike Parson. “Whether for farmers, small business owners, or students, internet access is a must for Missourians. We look forward to putting NTIA funds to good use as we make transformational investments in our state’s future.”
The nearly $3 million in federal funds were received through the NTIA’s State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program, which awarded an $827,338 grant, and its Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Planning Grant Program, which awarded a $2,147,304 grant. Digital Equity and BEAD planning funds will be used for driving community engagement, research, and data collection and analysis. Funds will also be used to develop a robust five-year action plan and state digital equity plan to ensure all Missourians have access to reliable, affordable, high-speed internet and the skills to fully engage in the digital economy.
“We’re grateful for the NTIA’s support as the Office of Broadband Development works to expand internet access statewide,” said Maggie Kost, Acting Director of the Department of Economic Development. “Broadband is a critical need for businesses and communities in today’s economy. This funding will greatly enhance our planning for efforts to connect all Missourians.”
DED submitted applications for the Digital Equity and BEAD grant programs earlier this year and received notice of approval this week. As the entity designated to administer NTIA grant funds, the Office of Broadband Development will use the nearly $3 million for planning that will inform future programs. This includes the creation of a five-year action plan to establish strategies and a state digital equity plan to serve as a roadmap for achieving digital equity statewide. Partnerships with the University of Missouri System and Regional Planning Commissions will assist in the collection of public feedback to shape both plans.
“We’re excited for the opportunities NTIA funding will provide for broadband expansion,” said BJ Tanksley, Director of the Office of Broadband Development. “We’ve seen firsthand the importance of quality internet, whether for work, education, or healthcare. Missouri has a big need for better access, but with these funds and public participation, we’re well on our way to help close the digital divide.”
This fall, Office of Broadband Development staff visited with stakeholders from each of the state’s 19 Regional Planning Commission regions to collect feedback to help identify broadband challenges and barriers, as well as resources available in each of the regions. As part of the Connecting All Missourians initiative, this statewide listening tour provided valuable insight from a variety of stakeholder groups. Public feedback will continue to guide activities made possible by the Digital Equity and BEAD grant awards. With the nearly $3 million, the Office of Broadband Development will gather input from stakeholders in education, government, advocacy, communities, businesses, and housing. Plans developed through this effort will be used as the state applies for full funding from the Digital Equity and BEAD programs. Both programs promise unprecedented funding for Missouri for digital equity and broadband infrastructure beginning in 2023.
For more information on the Office of Broadband Development, including details on the usage of NTIA funds or future expansion efforts, visit the Connecting All Missourians webpage.
To learn more about the NTIA’s grant programs, including the State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program and Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Planning Grant Program, visit the BroadbandUSA website.