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DeSantis distributes federal funds bringing broadband access across Florida

Joe Byrnes
Federal funding will bring broadband internet to underserved areas in Brevard, Osceola and Marion County.

Florida communities lacking high-speed internet are getting thousands of miles of fiber optic cable. It’s being funded with money coming to the state from President Biden's American Rescue Plan.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said this first installment of $144 million will connect 160,000 customers in 41 counties. At a press conference Thursday, he acknowledged the federal source of that funding after a reporter asked about it.

"We were able to secure $400 million last year to expand broadband access across the state of Florida," he said. "And so today we are here to issue our first awards."

They include internet cable to 791 underserved homes and businesses in rural southeast Osceola County, plus service to 443 locations in Brevard County.

Ocala will add broadband to more than a thousand locations by expanding an existing network.

Benjamin Melnick, a deputy secretary with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, said more is coming through the Broadband Opportunity Grant Program.

"[C]onnecting these communities, particularly in rural and small areas of the state is really going to be a game-changer, to get these folks the opportunities they need to participate in job training, to expand what they've got going in their lives and improve everything around them," he said.

Under a federal program, those internet providers will enable customers who qualify to receive a subsidy of $30 a month.

Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.
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