Lee County receives $ 5.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to expand broadband
Danville Telecom has received $ 3.5 million in grants for its Lee County fiber expansion project, where more than $ 5.5 million will be invested to improve broadband connectivity.
A private / public fiber optic project will transform broadband connectivity in Lee County in the next generation. Approximately 60 miles of new fiber optic backbone and 120 underserved Tier 1 customers will receive fiber to their homes or businesses over the next two years. The project also paves the way for new connections with residents and businesses in the future.
Project partners include Danville Telecom, Southeast Iowa Regional Economic and Port Authority, Lee County, and the Lee County Economic Development Group. Danville Telecom will own the optical fiber to the customer, SIREPA will own the backbone and will lease it to Danville Telecom over 10 years. Rental income will be used for future broadband projects. Lee County provided American Recovery Plan Act funds to SIREPA as a local counterpart and Lee County EDG provided catalytic funds for project planning.
“Lee County Economic Development Group can be very proud of our forward-looking vision for planning and pre-engineering funding, which has been the catalyst for this award,” said Dennis Fraise, President and CEO of EDG from Lee County, in a press release.
Planning began in early 2021 to identify broadband deserts in Lee County. It evolved into a basic concept and user-by-user plan to serve the level 1 underserved areas identified by the Iowa CIO. The backbone will provide the necessary data transport to the Tier 1 areas and will be a starting point for future broadband projects.
“This is a generational investment in broadband that paves the way for more connectivity in the county,” said Mike Norris, executive director of the Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission and administrator. by SIREPA.
Tim Fencl, Managing Director of Danville Telecom, said, “This grant is a great opportunity for unserved Lee County residents to be able to connect to a reliable and scalable broadband network. We are looking to connect even more residents in the future.
Lee County EDG worked with Danville Telecom and school districts to identify broadband deserts throughout the county. One of the biggest challenges in expanding connectivity is how service is reported.
The current system works by census tract, if a household has broadband access in a census tract, then the entire area is considered to be served. Lee County EDG conducted a pre-engineering study to get a better picture of what areas of the county are really served and at what level.
The Lee County Project was one of thirty-nine winners out of 178 applicants.
“The expansion of broadband in our state continues to be a top priority,” said Governor Kim Reynolds. “It is clear from the shear volume and the scope of applications that the need is there. “
The state will accelerate a new grant opportunity by using federal funds from ARPA to leverage the $ 100 million in state funding for this grant program.