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Sho-Me Tech lays out broadband plan

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Armed with $27 million in federal funds, officials with Marshfield-based Sho-Me Technologies LLC hope to start expanding broadband services to 30 south and central Missouri counties, including Greene, Christian and Webster, by the end of 2010.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon stopped at Ozarks Technical Community College in Springfield on Sept. 14 to announce area businesses’ portions of $57.6 million in federal funding to expand broadband availability statewide.

Sho-Me Technologies will get a $26.6 million grant, the largest amount awarded, and OTC will get more than $600,000 of a $5 million grant to the state’s Department of Higher Education.
Sho-Me Technologies plans to expand its middle-mile network, said spokesman Jerry Hartman, and OTC plans to provide a new public computing center at its Lebanon campus, said spokesman Joel Doepker.

The federal funding was awarded to Missouri through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Sho-Me Technologies will enhance and expand its fiber-optic middle-mile network to 66,000 businesses and more than 260,000 households with a grant from the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

“The midmile is the superhighway that will be laid in place for last-mile providers that exist. It gives them that on-ramp in a particular community,” Hartman said.

The 1,380-mile network will be the backbone infrastructure for last-mile providers to deliver broadband to homes, businesses, schools, libraries, hospitals, public safety agencies and other
facilities, Nixon said in a statewide conference call.

Last-mile providers represent the final leg of service, Hartman said, comparing middle mile networks to interstates and last-mile providers as highway exit ramps.

Hartman said Sho-Me Technologies, a subsidiary of Sho-Me Power electric cooperative, hopes to finish the work in less than a year and a half. He added that the project will create four full-time jobs at Sho-Me Technologies.

“Indirect jobs – those with the largest impact – will be last-mile providers that will be doing business in communities,” Hartman said, noting that such providers include telephone, wireless and Internet service, and cable television companies.

Interested providers will be allowed to attach to the middle-mile network for a fee that is dependent on each company’s needs, Hartman said.

In the agreement, the company will provide a match of $11.4 million to the federal grant, bringing the total cost to about $38 million, Hartman said.

The state and four telecommunications companies applied in September 2009 for $142.3 million in ARRA funding to provide middle-mile infrastructure.

Nixon spokesman Scott Holste said the program would increase broadband coverage to 91 percent of the state population by 2015. The state estimates 79 percent of the population is currently served.

The program is a natural extension of Sho-Me Power’s work, said Hartman, who said the power company has been working since 1997 to put in fiber-optic cable to support its power-grid data collection efforts.

The second state award was for $26 million – a $13 million grant and a $13 million loan – to Cass County from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service to build a 1,286-mile fiber-optic network providing broadband service to 11,592 households and 701 businesses in 18 communities in Cass County. The award will be matched by $600,000 in private contributions.

OTC-Lebanon plans to create a computer center in one of two buildings valued at $2.6 million donated in December 2009 by Reuben and Mary Lou Casey, of San Clemente, Calif., Doepker said. He said four new computer classrooms with 104 computer workstations will be built.

“The point is to provide opportunities for people who may not have or have limited access to Internet,” Doepker said, adding that the college also would offer Internet-use classes.

Conway, Ark.-based Nabholz Construction was chosen as the contractor with a bid of $3.1 million. The firm will provide work on the parking area as well as infill of the buildings.[[In-content Ad]]

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