State and federal officials will visit the southwest Iowa town of Stanton this afternoon for an announcement about the expansion of rural broadband services.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue will join Governor Kim Reynolds in making a presentation. Kevin Cabbage, general manager and CEO of Farmers Mutual Telephone Company, says it’s being included in the federal government’s ReConnect program, designed to upgrade fiber optics coverage in rural parts of the country.

“Their appearance here is because of some recent funding that was made possible through U.S.D.A. for companies like FMTC to submit applications for rural broadband expansion to the rural areas,” Cabbage says. In March of 2018, Congress provided $600 million to U.S.D.A. to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America. Cabbage says funding from the program will allow his company to expand outside its normal coverage area, which has been towns including: Stanton, Villisca, Nodaway, New Market and Bethesda.

“We have been branching out into areas of Red Oak, Clarinda, Bedford, and Corning,” Cabbage says, “but, that comes at a high cost to expand our fiber optics out there. There just really hasn’t been a mechanism in place to make that affordable for companies to do. That’s the reason those people are lacking in some communications services.”

Cabbage says FMTC has focused on increasing and improving rural internet services for a number of years and now it’s gaining national attention.  “Obviously, it’s been a focus of the state here, with Iowa Governor Reynolds and her Empower Rural Iowa Initiative, and then the Connections Task Force that’s been working on ways that we can help bring high-speed broadband service delivered over fiber optic cable to all of the rural residents,” he says.

Under the ReConnect program, U.S.D.A. received 146 applications between May and July of this year, requesting $1.4 million in funding. The event is at the Old Lumber Yards Event Center in Stanton at 2:30 p.m.

(By Mike Peterson, KMA, Shenandoah)