FCC plans to invest $4.9 billion in rural broadband

Published: Feb. 7, 2020 at 5:33 PM CST
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North Dakota is a state with expanses of rural spaces.

Some of those areas lack broadband-- a necessity for internet and phone connection.

As the use of technology progresses, this has become an increasingly important issue for people living in rural areas, but a solution is on the way.

The Federal Communications Commission announced they plan to spend $4.9 billion nationwide over the next 10 years to fund rural broadband as a way to close the digital divide.

Meet Drew Hager, one of the inspirations for a business called Bison Booties.

"I found myself as a stay-at-home mom with a baby with very, very kicky feet and nothing stayed on. So I set to work in what was the our unfinished basement with a box of scrap fabric from my quilting hobby and a folding table and I made a pair of baby shoes," said Hager, founder and owner of Bison Booties.

From there, Hager created an online boutique for her newfound "Bison Booties."

Hager says, thanks to the internet, her booties took off.

They've received national attention, been featured in magazines, and been sold to celebrities.

"I'm out here, eight miles north of Mandan, yet I can reach anywhere in the globe," Hager said.

However, Hager's online business endeavors didn't come without a challenge.

"We didn't have the services that we were used to in town. So, we did find a service that had a little satellite on our house that we could get mediocre internet," she said.

While industry experts say North Dakota is a leader in rural broadband service, there's still room for improvement.

"We've done a great job in 96% of North Dakota's geographic territory. We still have 4% of that territory that is not covered. That's areas that the locally owned broadband providers have not traditionally served," said David Crothers, executive vice president of the Broadband Association of North Dakota.

Funding from the FCC will be used to help providers bring broadband service to the areas that are still lacking.

The FCC's website says it plans to designate over $500 million to North Dakota to support over 40,000 homes and businesses.