By Joe Rutherford/NEMS Daily Journal
Smithville Telephone Co. has received a $7.1 million federal grant for rural broadband Internet development, U.S. Rep. Travis Childers announced Wednesday in a joint teleconference with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
The money, part of a nationwide USDA initiative under the 2009 stimulus program, will pay for Smithville Telephone’s designing, engineering and constructing a broadband network to improve existing service and provide new service to nearly 300 additional households.
Vilsack said about 1,800 people will be served by the new network.
Smithville Telephone, Childers said, was selected in a “very competitive process” for the funding. Childers, a Democrat from Booneville, said he had no direct input into the selection process, which was handled by the Department of Agriculture.
In the same announcement, Vilsack said a Mississippi Delta project, CONTACT, will receive $11.1 million to connect 130 community institutions like libraries across that region.
He also said the state will receive $70 million from a similar Department of Commerce initiative to provide statewide emergency broadband services for first responders like police, firefighters and health services. Vilsack said 9,900 responders will be connected with the technology provided by the grant.
Childers, who is co-chairman of the Congressional Rural Caucus, said the Smithville grant is an investment that will help school children and businesses take fuller advantage of the Internet.
Vilsack said Smithville was chosen from among more than 2,000 applicants.
“They had to prove that they could accomplish what they said they could accomplish with design, engineering, installation and maintenance,” Vilsack said. “This will provide up-to-the-minute market information for farmers.”
The work is expected to create about 30 jobs in design, engineering, installation and maintenance.
Contact Joe Rutherford at joe.rutherford @djournal.com or (662) 678-1597.