Missouri and North Carolina plotted major investments in broadband, with the former’s governor announcing a plan to dedicate at least $400 million to expand access in the state and the latter’s legislature weighing a budget which could allocate more than $850 million to boost rural coverage.
On Thursday, Missouri Governor Michael Parson proposed the state use $400 million of the approximately $2.7 billion in federal funding it received under the American Rescue Plan Act for broadband. A press release about the plan was light on details but stated the funding would be used to increase access, adoption and provide assistance statewide. It added the funding boost would help “hundreds of thousands of Missouri families.”
The proposal must be approved by the Missouri General Assembly, with the governor’s office planning to present it to the legislature in January.
Parson’s office also said it was seeking an additional $56 million in broadband funding from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Infrastructure Program. That money would be sufficient to support as many as 19 broadband deployment projects, covering more than 17,000 households and businesses.
Meanwhile, North Carolina’s House of Representatives recently approved a budget bill which would allocate a total of $750 million for competitive broadband grants to expand availability in rural areas and another $100 million for a Broadband Make Ready Accelerator Fund to speed deployments.
The Associated Press reported earlier this week the state Senate rejected the bill, meaning the chambers will spend the next several weeks hashing out a final plan. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, who previously proposed allocating $1.2 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funding to expand broadband infrastructure and access, is reportedly keen to participate in negotiations.
States are increasingly earmarking federal funds for broadband. Last month, California and Virginia set aside a combined $6.7 billion for broadband, with the former dedicating $6 billion to build state-owned middle mile infrastructure and fund last-mile connections. At least half of the money for California's plan was set to come from its share of American Rescue Plan Act funding.
Similarly, Virginia said it would use $700 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to accelerate a goal of providing universal broadband access in the state, now targeting completion in 2024 rather than the original aim of 2028.