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Federal grant to expand rural broadband in Brookings, Moody, Kingsbury counties

(WSAZ)
Published: Dec. 12, 2019 at 11:07 PM CST
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44-hundred rural South Dakotans are now in line to receive access to high speed broadband due to a multi-million dollar federal grant announced today.

The planned expansion will affect residents in rural areas of Brookings, Moody and Kingsbury counties.

Just a few months ago it looked like these areas would have to wait awhile. But not anymore.

Discussion about federal grants doesn't typically elicit excitement. But this is no ordinary grant.

"This is going to be a huge boost to this rural area." Julie Gross is the Rural Development South Dakota state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The federal money involved totals $9.5 million dollars and it's part of a program called 'Reconnect'. Gross tells us this grant is a literal game changer for residents and businesses in this tri-county rural area. "Businesses need to be globally connected and right now if you live in this rural area you're not able to."

Business owners like Jeralynn Andersen know this all to well. "For years I've been trying to get high speed internet at my home which is south and west of Arlington." Andersen owns Midwest Ag Insurance in Arlington and tells us the internet she currently has at her home can be slow and inconsistent. There are times when she tries to log on and can't. "A lot of times i have to wait until the next day or drive into town which is seven miles."

The $9.5 million dollars in grant money is earmarked for valley Telecommunications. Company C-E-O Jeff Symens says rural broadband expansions like this one don't happen unless there is financial help of some kind. "The only way rural America gets good broadband is with grants and support such as the reconnect grant."

And while there are immediate implications for businesses like Jeralynn's...there are also effects you might not think immediately think of.

"Children are going to be able to come home at night after getting their homework assignment in school and be able to do their homework." Julie Gross said.

This USDA "Reconnect" program is a pilot project for the agency. This grant money marks the first round of USDA investment in rural broadband.

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