Missouri Gov. looks to private sector to land broadband stimulus dollars

In the wake of a Commerce Department and White House announcement appropriating $4 billion in federal stimulus spending on rural broadband, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has announced an initiative to bring business and government together to deliver broadband Internet access to Missouri.

In the first round of Recovery Act funding for broadband, Commerce Secretary Locke and Vice President Biden announced the availability of $4 billion in loans and grants to help bring broadband service to unserved and underserved communities across America.

“Today’s announcement is a first step toward realizing President Obama’s vision of a nationwide 21st-century communications infrastructure – one that encourages economic growth, enhances America’s global competitiveness and helps address many of America’s most pressing challenges,” Biden said during the July 1 announcement.

To seize on this and forthcoming broadband opportunities, Gov. Nixon has requested private sector partners to help the state compete for hundreds of millions in federal grant funding for broadband expansion. In order to be considered for the public-private partnership, businesses must submit a notice of interest by July 13.

“Because this is an opportunity of great importance for education, for agriculture and for industry, I believe Missouri must put its best foot forward in what will be a fierce competition for federal broadband grants,” Gov Nixon said in a statement.

Missouri already has an established statewide broadband project, called MoBroadbandNow, but funds and solidified road maps are needed. MoBroadbandNow is a working progress that will connect every cluster of 50 or more dwellings, as well as schools and hospitals with fiber-optic broadband. According to the governor’s office, in order to realize the MoBroadbandNow initative, a series of public-private partnerships are needed to help guarantee that the market barriers which have previously stalled delivery of broadband access to many portions of rural Missouri will no longer impede progress.

To identify and select potential partners, the state has set up a multi-step screening process. Federal eligibility requirements, as well as technical expertise, network design and business plans will be scrutinized to choose the various partners for the project.

“Competitive grants for expanding rural broadband are a perfect example of funding I’ll fight for. If we can land these grants, they would allow us not only to connect Missourians from all parts of the state to broadband, but also to create hundreds of immediate new jobs in the public and private sectors on a statewide infrastructure project,” Gov. Nixon said.

Interested businesses or individuals may apply via email by visiting transform.broadbandinterested@mo.gov.

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