AUXVASSE – The United States Department of Agriculture awarded Kingdom Telephone Company over $23 million as part of a grant to bring high-speed internet to rural areas of Missouri. Kingdom Telephone Company said it will use the money to install fiber internet in Audrain, Boone, Callaway, and Montgomery counties.
The dark purple area of the project map is for Reconnect grant 2. The lighter purple is for Reconnect grant 3 which Kingdom Telephone was rece…
Renee Reeter, the CEO of Kingdom Telephone, said the total cost of the project will be over $30 million. The company will be paid for the part of the project the grant does not cover.
“The reason they don’t have internet today is because nobody can take internet out there and make a business case out of it,” Reeter said. “It’s very expensive. Depending on the terrain, it can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $45,000 a mile to put fiber in.”
However, Reeter emphasized the importance of getting high-speed internet into rural areas.
“I think COVID, if it did anything for our country, it proved that internet access was just as important as electricity,” Reeter said. “People that don’t have internet access, as I said, they can’t do telehealth. They can’t do school studies at home.”
The money granted to Kingdom Telephone is part of $58 million awarded to programs in Missouri.
“High-speed internet is crucial for rural Missouri residents and businesses to be competitive and connected to the world,” Kyle Wilkens, the USDA Rural Development Missouri director, said in a press release. “With high-speed internet, rural communities can thrive in the global community. There will be greater opportunities to attract new businesses, grow existing businesses, and attract new residents.”
Kingdom Telephone also received a grant in 2021 to put internet in a smaller area near Mexico, Missouri. However, the company has not been able to start on that project yet.
“We have been unable to begin construction on that because the Osage Nation Tribe has held up the environmental clearance on it,” Reeter said. “We’ve had to hire an archeologist to do some things, and we’re waiting for USDA to give us environmental clearance.”
Reeter said Kingdom Telephone hopes to have the project near Mexico done in a year to 18 months after the company gets environmental clearance.
The project for the larger area could take four to five years once Kingdom Telephone gets environmental clearance.