$8 million grant to fund broadband study in central Iowa

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AMES, Iowa — An $8 million grant was announced today to fund an effort to study better ways to deliver rural broadband. The National Science Foundation is putting up $7 million with another $1 million from the USDA.

“The PAWR public-private partnership showcases NSF’s unique ability to foster a national innovation ecosystem,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “By bringing together academia, industry, government and local communities, the ARA platform will support breakthrough solutions to connect the unconnected.”

“It’s not really just a digital divide … It’s what we think about as a mobility divide. It’s not just coverage or connectivity to a farm house or a building. It’s wide area connectivity to a field or a whole farm,” said Paul Challoner with Ericsson, which will provide commercial grade hardware for the project.

The project is designated as ARA. It will cover Boone, Story and Marshall counties, serving the towns of Boone, Gilbert, McCallsburg, State Center, Nevada and Ames. Towers will be mounted at various locations on the Iowa State University campus and in the towns where the project will be in use.

“This is a public-private partnership to address one of real America’s most pressing needs, broadband connectivity,” said Carrie Castille of the USDA. “Every aspect of life where you live, in the city or in the country, will be increasingly dependent on the ability to connect through technology, from automated tractors in the field or consultations at your local doctor’s office.”

Iowa State University will be coordinating the effort. It will hold an in-person event to explain this on Monday June 28, from 2-4 p.m. at the ISU Student Innovation Center.

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