Internet placeholder

The streaming giant Netflix is a popular medium for entertainment around the world, but as of 2019, the company still touted 2.59 million DVD subscribers in the United States alone, according to statista.com.

The continued high number of households that use DVDs for entertainment is a prime example of the gaps in broadband access all around the country and especially in Northwest Missouri.

The state of Missouri came away as the big winner in funds from the Federal Communications

Commission, coming away with more funding than any other state in the country.

Over the course of the next decade, Missouri counties will stand to receive upward of $176 million to fill broadband gaps around the state. But this is going to have a significant impact for 13 counties and around 7,400 homes and businesses around Northwest Missouri.

Buchanan, Andrew, Clay, Clinton, DeKalb, Gentry, Nodaway and Platte account for eight of those counties. Buchanan County Commissioner Lee Sawyer said the broadband update is sorely needed.

“Missouri is 41st out of 50 in rural broadband, so we’re not the greatest,” said Sawyer. “Even though Buchanan County overall is good, we still have pockets of Buchanan County that don’t have good connectivity.”

United Electric, which has buildings locally in Savannah and Maryville, will be installing much of the fiber broadband after putting out bids to obtain the federal funds. They were awarded $20.2 million over the next 10 years to connect eight counties that lagged in broadband access.

Darren Farnan is the Chief Development Officer for United Electric and he said the process of installing fiber soon will be underway.

“You have to be completely built in six years, the first measurement criteria happens in three years. Our goal is to have all the areas that we won in the auction to be done in the next three years,” said Farnan. “We’re getting started right now.”

Farnan said before the funds from the auction that United Electric won, the areas that were set to receive broadband was only budgeted to get around $5 million. With the addition of the federal funds, those areas will now receive top-notch technology.

“We think it’s important to focus on the technology and make sure that when we’re using these federal dollars to put into technology that’s going to last for decades instead of just getting to the next minimum level of broadband,” said Farnan.

The rural broadband will have huge impacts on schools, businesses and medical treatment around the area. The push was even made by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson for improved telehealth services when he visited Family Guidance Center in St. Joseph back in December.

“If you don’t have good connectivity the whole telehealth thing is a challenge,” said Lee Sawyer, Buchanan County Commissioner.

Sawyer added that as Missouri looks to beef up its infrastructure, this is a large step.

“As you look at the overall infrastructure you don’t necessarily think of broadband,” said Sawyer. “You think of bridges and you think of roads but really, broadband is an important part of this whole infrastructure effort that hopefully will continue to gain traction.”

United Electric said they believe this is a long-term solution to the rural broadband issue and federal funds won’t be needed again once the fiber is installed in these rural areas.

Zach Barrett can be reached

at zach.barrett@newspressnow.com.