CenturyLink announced it will access federal funding to roll out high-speed Internet in rural areas.

Board members for the Southern Ozarks Alliance for Rural Development (SOAR) met Oct. 14 at Viandel Winery in Mountain View with local and state legislators to support the expansion of broadband services in southern Missouri.

By the end of this year, the Federal Communications Commission will decide which states get Connect America Funds—Phase 2 (CAF2) designated for the expansion of rural Internet in under-served areas (areas with less than 10 mbps) and un-served areas (areas with no service). Missouri is among the most likely states to get tap those dollars.

Doug Galloway, director-governmental affairs, CenturyLink, Southern region, and Karen Crabtree, Missouri manager and vice president of CenturyLink, provided maps of the 8th Congressional District and the local counties that will be funded for fiber optic rural high-speed Internet. The maps displayed were Howell, Wright, Texas and Shannon counties. “Rural broadband is a game changer,” said Galloway. More rural broadband service means more economic growth and more educational opportunities, he said.

CenturyLink is one of three telephone companies that may get CAF2 funds if Missouri is selected by the FCC. According to Galloway, the FCC will do more than create an algorithm to determine which areas to fund.

“Sending letters to the FCC matters,” he said. “Letters let the FCC know specifically what is needed and where. They are definitely being read and taken into consideration.”

SOAR members from Texas, Howell, Reynolds, Carter, Oregon, and Wright were represented and the following legislators were in attendance: Rep. Steve Cookson, Rep. Tony Dugger, Rep. Shawn Rhoads, Rep. Robert Ross, Rep. Paul Fitzwater, Commissioner Zack Williams, Sen. Mike Cunningham, Dan Hutton from Missouri Sen. Gary Romine’s office and Tom Schulte, the southeast region director for Sen. Roy Blunt.

For more information on how to tell the FCC to support the southern Ozarks for CAF funds, email SOARExecdirector@aol.com.

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