In Missouri, one small town is left with empty pockets for broadband funding, as differing definitions of “rural” may qualify his town for one out of hundreds of grants designed to help communities just like his.
From the story transcript, on St. Louis Public Radio: “JONATHAN AHL, BYLINE: Houston, Mo., tucked into the rolling hills of the Ozarks not far from the Arkansas border, is a town of about 2,500 surrounded by farmland. Its claim to fame is being the hometown of famous clown Emmett Kelly and an annual festival named in his memory. Houston struggles with infrastructure, and city administrator Scott Avery was looking for ways to bring high-speed internet to town.
SCOTT AVERY: There’s a federal grant that I was looking at with the broadband. There’s a ton of federal grants. One of them defines rural as more than 100 miles from a metro area. Well, I’m less than 100 air miles from Springfield, so I don’t qualify.
AHL: Springfield is a metro area of about a half a million, and it’s an hour and 40 minute drive away on two-lane roads, but only 90 miles as the crow flies. So for that grant, this small town that prides itself on country life wasn’t rural enough.”
With no standard definition, towns like Houston, Missouri are left to fight over funding they may not qualify for, or won’t be enough to help them out. On the other hand, according to a regional planner interviewed for the story, if there was one definition, some rural ares would never qualify for a grant.
To read or listen to the rest of the story transcript on NPR, click here.