More than 6,000 homes and businesses in Jefferson County are online for a chance to join the digital revolution, under a funding plan the Federal Communications Commission announced earlier this month.
The FCC said it would authorize spending more than $175 million over the next decade to expand broadband high-speed internet connections to rural areas in Missouri.
Jefferson County is due to receive $9,130,692 to fill in coverage gaps to help those in remote areas receive state-of-the-art connections.
“I’m very happy about it,” said Jefferson County Councilman Jim Terry (District 7, Cedar Hill), who has worked to improve internet service in his mostly-rural district. “There’s always a demand, and it’s growing all the time, for people to get online. The big question in my mind is how much of this will go to my area. There are a lot of dead spots in the district.”
The FCC has awarded a contract to Wisper ISP Inc., based in Mascoutah, Ill., to provide the equipment that would allow people to subscribe to its internet service.
“I’m not positive about this, but it’s my understanding that they will be installing directional antennas onto existing towers,” Terry said, noting that the county’s hilly topography makes it a challenge. “There’s a lot that goes into deciding where and how to place these antennas to reach people.”
The FCC authorization was the latest in an approximately two-year-long process to finance broadband access to rural areas through its Connect America Fund.
In the latest round of funding, Jefferson County’s number of homes and businesses targeted for broadband access improvement (6,041) is second among the 61 counties listed, behind only Franklin County (6,650).
How soon anyone will be given the opportunity to subscribe to improved signals – or any signal at all – isn’t clear.
Under the FCC’s terms, contractors such as Wisper who win contracts – and Wisper was awarded the work for all 61 counties in Missouri – must reach 40 percent of the homes and businesses in an area within three years and 20 percent more each year over the following three years.
The provider also must charge service fees comparable to those charged in nearby urban areas, and must deliver a minimum speed, in this case 100 megabits downloaded per second with a 20 megabits per second upload speed, which are considered sufficient for most residential and business applications.