By Marlana Smith
Mark Twain Communications Company and the Shelby County CARES Act committee are funding a fiber extension from Shelbyville to Shelbina along Highway 15.
This project will help increase broadband speed and reliability to current and future subscribers throughout the county. Those with this service will see a speed increase for basic internet service from 10M to 30M.
District 5 State Representative Louis Riggs (R-Hannibal) expressed the pandemic has demonstrated just how bad internet access is in rural Missouri.
“This (funding) is much-needed and timely. In the spring, there were 20,000 high school seniors who were trying to graduate across Missouri who did not have broadband access,” Riggs said in an email.
“Over 500 current locations will be affected by this agreement and any new locations requesting internet service in these areas,” said Mark Twain Communications Company CEO and general manager Jim Lyon.
All locations directly along the fiber route will be eligible for up to 1G fiber optic internet service.
Shelby County was granted $695,707 from the CARES Act. Mark Twain was given $205,000 to cover half of the fiber construction cost that totals $410,000.
“We are mainly doing this for the schools. So, they can have access to E-learning. If and when that becomes necessary,” said Presiding Commissioner Glenn Eagan.
“Other reasons are, people are working from home more. It should increase the compacity to do their jobs from home, as well,” Eagan added.
Riggs said he has asked the Governor’s office to label any CARES Act funding not distributed by counties by the end of December as broadband to keep those funds in Missouri.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to build our capacity quickly in Missouri and it needs to be done sooner rather than later,” said Riggs.
Riggs stated that if schools shut down again, there might be a number of seniors without access and as many as 200,000 K-12 students statewide with substandard access.
“This is unacceptable and sets our students back in way we might not be able to recover,” Riggs continued.
Lyon explained that virtual learning, working from home and telemedicine have become necessities this year.
“With the help of CARES funding, Mark Twain can help make this experience better for the citizens of Shelby County,” Lyon said.
Construction is expected to be finished before the end of the year.