Two central Missouri internet providers operated by electric cooperatives, including one that serves residents in the lake area, will have $24.1 million in federal funding to expand broadband offerings to almost 10,000 homes and businesses, the Federal Communications Commission said in a news release issued Monday.

Two central Missouri internet providers operated by electric cooperatives, including one that serves residents in the lake area,  will have $24.1 million in federal funding to expand broadband offerings to almost 10,000 homes and businesses, the Federal Communications Commission said in a news release issued Monday.

Co-Mo Electric Cooperative in Tipton received $21.97 million to expand its CoMo Connect service to 8,356 new customers. Callaway Electric Cooperative in Fulton, which offers internet through its Callabyte Technology subsidiary, received $2.17 million to bring service to 1,485 customers.

The FCC funds are part of is Connect America program which will award $1.98 billion to expand broadband access in rural areas of the country over the next 10 years.

CoMo Connect serves an area which stretches north of Interstate 70 to parts of Boonville, south to the Lake of the Ozarks and east to within six miles of Jefferson City. Its internet subsidiary Co-Mo Connect is not bound by its service area and has connections in place like California, Missouri, which is outside its electric service area. Co-Mo Electric will use the money to expand Co-Mo Connect service toward Eldon, Warsaw and along Highway 50 toward Jefferson City, said Co-Mo Electric General Manager Aaron Bradshaw.

“While we’re not pushing toward those cities themselves, those are the areas we’re pushing toward outside our service area,” Bradshaw said.

Co-Mo Electric also plans to use the grants to fill in gaps in its existing service area, Bradshaw said.

Clint Smith, Callaway Electric director of administration, said that for every dollar invested in broadband, four dollars return to communities. Unlike Boone County, Callaway’s population is stagnant, Smith said.

“Callaway has been stagnant or declining since the recession, so we’re using that tool to bring businesses to Callaway County,” Smith said.

Callaway Electric will use the money bring service to parts of Callaway County, Hermann and Jonesburg, Smith said.

Smith said that for every dollar invested in broadband, four dollars return to communities.

The FCC defines broadband internet as internet with download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second and upload speeds of at least 3 mbps.

A 2018 FCC report found that 30.7 percent of people living in rural areas lacked access to fixed-non-cellular broadband internet in 2016, down from 54.3 percent in 2014. In 2016, 92.3 percent of all Americans had access to fixed broadband services, up from 89.6 percent in 2014.

Of the 1.26 million Missourians without access to high-speed internet, 1.04 million reside in rural areas, according to a May report by the Missouri Broadband Development Office. Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill Monday which allocates $5 million toward a program designed to expand broadband access in areas which can secure matching funds.

“The 21st Century economy has not been fully realized in many rural areas of Missouri placing them at a competitive disadvantage because of the barriers in rural broadband deployment,” the Missouri broadband report said.

Increasingly technology is becoming enmeshed in farming. The report said farmers with access to broadband internet see a 6 percent increase in revenue.

“This increase of revenue will have a cascading effect in operating more profitable operations, re-investment in their farms and ranches, the purchase of new equipment and materials which will support the surrounding communities,” the report said.

Under the terms of the grant, the two companies must make service available to at least 40 percent of the homes and businesses in the expanded areas within three years and make service available to all homes and businesses in their area by the end of the sixth year.