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FCC looks to 'close the digital divide,' provide $4.9 million for S.D. rural broadband

PIERRE, S.D. — As the federal government looks to "close the digital divide" in rural communities across the country, South Dakota will receive nearly $4.9 million over the next 10 years to invest in rural broadband.

The Federal Communications Commission announced in a Monday, Aug. 12, news release that the commission is allocating $121 million in funding over the next decade to bring broadband to nearly 37,000 rural homes and businesses in 16 states.

In South Dakota, the FCC is granting Midcontinent Communications nearly $4.9 million to bring service to 892 more locations. According to the news release, providers will start receiving funding this month.

This month's allocation is the fourth wave of the FCC's Connect America Fund Phase II, which has to-date provided $924 million for over 342,000 locations throughout the country. The FCC said more rounds of funding will be announced in later months.

The FCC's assistance to South Dakota is coming two months after South Dakota announced $5 million in state grants for rural broadband, as part of Republican Gov. Kristi Noem's Connect South Dakota Initiative. Through public-private partnerships, Noem's program is leveraging $11.4 million in total projects costs to bring internet to 4,800 residents and 100 businesses in rural South Dakota by the end of 2019.

Kristin Wileman, a spokesperson for Noem, said in a Monday emailed statement that the state "cannot tackle this problem alone," and that Noem is "thrilled" to see the FCC funds coming to South Dakota.

"It requires an all-hands-on-deck approach," Wileman said. "These dollars will go a long way in closing South Dakota’s digital divide and ensuring the next generation has access to online opportunities."