(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) United Fiber is working to expand broadband internet to rural areas of Northwest Missouri thanks to funding from the Federal Communications Commission.
The co-op, which serves a large portion of the region, is planning to install fiber optic internet to many of the rural counties that currently struggle to find reliable connection.
"We have to be able to let people work and live where they want to work and live," Darren Farnan, chief development officer, United Fiber said.
The effort is made possible by the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund through the FCC, that will provide $7.5 million to upgrade existing infrastructure to support fiber internet.
"We’re really excited that we’re going to be able to bring fiber further out into our network," Farnan said.
The announcement is welcome news for those who live, work and go to school in these areas, especially during Covid-19.
Rural schools like North Andrew R-VI are some of the key places in the areas that stand to benefit from widespread access to internet.
School superintendent Mark McDaniel said reaching students through virtual learning isn’t always a possibility due to unreliable internet connections in some spots.
"There are areas that do not have good connection," McDaniel said. "You have to adjust to find a way to reach those kids and sometimes that’s packets and sometimes it’s the phone."
Farnan said schools aren’t the only ones that will likely benefit, he said fiber internet will also have a positive economic impact on rural communities overall.
"For business services, you really need the kind of speeds and capacity that fiber offers." Farnan said.
Much like the power lines used to provide electricity, Farnan said internet reliability is just as important in the 21st century.
"Providing reliable and affordable broadband we feel like is now just as critical in the world we live in today."
United Fiber's coverage area includes areas from Smithville to the Iowa border line.