The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a seven million dollar grant today to Premier Communications of Sioux Center to expand broadband internet to rural areas of northwest Iowa and southeast South Dakota.
Iowa U.S.D.A. Rural Development Director Grant Mienke was part of the announcement at a Sioux County family livestock farm near Hawarden “It is such an honor that the $7.2 million grant application from Premier Communications was selected to be the very first reconnect award in Iowa and South Dakota,” Mienke says. He talked about the significance of the award.
“Premiere Communications’ project has the potential to make a far-reaching positive impact on rural businesses and communities. It will attract new families and individuals to rural northwest Iowa and southeast South Dakota, while helping to retain the area’s best and brightest,” he says.
U.S.D.A. Under Secretary, Bill Northey equates the importance of investment of extending broadband internet to the rural areas to the electrification of rural America and the introduction of telephone service. He tells of the economic importance to have rural regions connected to the broadband internet.
“There’s a whole data management, data recording piece, from livestock buildings to crop operations that is hugely important. And it’s not only about today, it’s about what’s coming,” Northey says. Northey says Congress allocated $600 million to be invested for the specific purpose of introducing fast-speed broadband internet into rural regions. It really is in an area that almost nobody is served by effective broadband right now, so it’s those little-served areas,” according to Northey. “And this is the first project to receive a grant in the state of Iowa or the State of South Dakota… and we’ve got more to come and even Premiere is interested in the opportunity to participate in the future as well.”
Northey, the former Iowa Ag Secretary, says in order to be eligible for the federal grant, an investment partnership consisting of state and local funding also had to be secured. “It really is a community project. It costs real money to put fiber in the ground — a significant amount of money,” Northey says. “And this is an opportunity to get some connectivity and to build on it later. These become backbones for other projects as time goes on as well.”
Premier Communications which serves 28 communities within northwest Iowa and southeast South Dakota made an initial investment of $2.5 million, however a company spokesman says the actual investment when completed may be closer to $12 million.
(By Dennis Morrice, KLEM, Le Mars/Mark Buss, KSOU, Sioux Center)