MASON CITY, Iowa - For those that live in rural areas, high speed internet access may be very limited. But for part of our area, that's about to change.
During a virtual meeting with Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that the Trump administration is investing $24 million in expanding broadband internet access in unserved and underserved parts of rural Iowa. Harmony Telephone Company, which serves customers in both Minnesota and Iowa, will receive nearly $10 million to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network in their service area. The complete buildout of the network will connect over 1,500 customers in Howard and Chickasaw Counties.
Both Secretary Perdue and Harmony board chairman Brian Krambeer have seen how the pandemic has laid bare just how much we are wired into the internet.
"This pandemic has really shown us that access to high speed broadband in rural areas is critical and essential, just as electricity was in the 1930s."
Krambeer adds that the expansion of broadband access into rural areas can finally allow customers to be on par with those that live in town.
"These households and farms and small businesses, due to being rural, have been penalized and left behind due to the expense of high speed broadband infrastructure. These grants are going to be able to provide the opportunities to help them thrive, and allow them broadband access that's going to be in similar ways to what our urban counterparts have had for a number of years."
The grants are part of the ReConnect program, with the USDA making up to about $600 million in grants and loans available to cooperatives, non-profits, mutual associations and other applicants.