During the pandemic, many children in Lincoln County had to sit on the steps in front of the Richfield Library to complete homework.
In fact, a survey conducted by the county found that nearly 50% of students did not have internet access in their homes.
Rebecca Wood, commissioner for Lincoln County, saw this struggle in her community and knew something had to change.
“It was a crisis because there was no way for these kids to stay caught up,” Wood said. “We were really behind on helping our kids and those in the community.”
Wood jumped into action, contacting the Region 4 Economic Development agency about any open grant opportunities. That is when she learned about the Idaho Broadband Grant Program.
In FY2022, the Idaho Broadband Advisory Board awarded nearly $10 million in CARES Act funding to 13 projects across Idaho, connecting more than 4,600 households, businesses and community anchor institutions in more than 20 communities.
After utilizing ARPA funds to conduct an engineering study, Lincoln County applied for the grant. However, the county only had three and a half months to complete its grant project.
With this accelerated timeline, ETS, the ISP working with the community, decided to install towers to connect all three cities in Lincoln County.
In the middle of a blizzard, on December 28, the project was finally completed, providing internet access to over 1,000 locations in Lincoln County. Following the project’s completion, Lincoln County was awarded over $1.5 million from the grant.
Not only has the county been able to connect all three cities, Shoshone, Dietrich and Richfield, but also the Richfield Library, schools and businesses such as Glanbia.
Wood says this is just the beginning to improving internet connectivity in Lincoln County and has plans for a second phase of improving broadband for its residents.
“We have people in areas that have never been on the internet before,” Wood said. “It has changed lives really, especially for our students and access to telehealth. It has also opened doors for us for new industrial and commercial projects that we have never had before. I think that we were blessed to receive this grant and I cannot wait for the second phase of this project.”
Learn more about broadband here.