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CARES Act funds approved for broadband expansion in Ralls County

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A plan is coming together to get more people connected to high-speed internet in Ralls County, Missouri.

Officials at Ralls County Electric Co-op (RCEC) said they've been approved by county commissioners for around $350,000 in CARES Act funds, and they're looking to start building their network further in places like center Missouri in the next 30 days.

"To bring the internet and the broadband into Center, it's been desperately needed for quite some time now with the nursing home and the library," said Center Mayor Dennis McMillen.

He said with COVID-19, online access for virtual doctor visits and other tasks are more critical, and he says the internet in Center just doesn't cut it for live high-quality video.

"We had internet but it's just not very fast, you can't watch television you can't do any of that stuff with your internet," said McMillen.

Ralls county Western District commissioner John Lake said that's why they worked with RCEC to bring their gigabit connection to more homes.

"The biggest importance is with what's going on with this COVID, the kids at home who don't have [the] internet to do their school work," said Lake.

He said it's an investment in the future as well.

"All you have to do is forward a phone line, and you don't know whether you're talking to someone that's in an office building or at home, so I think that's something that you will see that's going to change in the years to come," said Lake.

Lake said while they offered the existing service provider in Center the same opportunity, they never heard back.

McMillen said he's counting on the new service to be better anyway.

"It's kind of hit and miss, sometimes the internet is good, sometimes you can't get on there for two hours. So it's really gonna be a great thing, I know their internet is top-notch and high quality, it's going to be a really good thing [to] Center," said McMillen.

RCEC officials said customers could start getting connected as soon as 60 days from now.

Frank Healy

Multimedia Journalist at WGEM

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