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Broadband board awards $26 million to two north central Idaho projects

Madeleine Bumstead, Southern Idaho Economic Development

The Idaho Broadband Advisory Board is awarding $26 million to two infrastructure projects expanding internet connection in north central Idaho.

The awards, announced last week, include $20 million for public-private partnership to directly link broadband connectivity between the northern and southern parts of the state for the first time from Grangeville to Star. Existing lines connect the regions through Oregon and Washington. The Idaho Regional Optical Network and the Intermountain Infrastructure Group are managing that project.

About $6 million was also awarded to the Port of Lewiston to bring fiber optics north to Moscow and east to Grangeville.

Scott Corbitt, the general manager of the transportation and economic development agency, said part of the line will be redundant in case of bad weather or other disruptions, but other parts will bring brand new access to fast internet speeds.

“When the folks within the Port District and the folks right out of the Port District have better connectivity, better speeds, better ability to do all these different things like telemedicine and remote learning, that just increases their ability to do commerce, and that’s what we do,” he said.

The state’s broadband board focused on projects that are shovel ready, have big financial matches and that target the “middle mile.” Corbitt explained it's like bringing a highway between destinations A and B, but smaller roads would still be needed to connect to homes and businesses, known as the “last mile.”

The Idaho Department of Commerce said a few upcoming federal grants focus on those types of projects.

The two awarded projects are scheduled to be finished in 3-4 years. While there is no formal process to challenge these projects, the Broadband Advisory Board is accepting public comments from individuals who have concerns through Feb. 8.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

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As the south-central Idaho reporter, I cover the Magic and Wood River valleys. I also enjoy writing about issues related to health and the environment.

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