BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho residents will have increased access to broadband service following a state investment of nearly $50 million in federal coronavirus recovery funds.
Idaho paid for 102 projects using federal pandemic money, which will connect about 40,000 Idaho households to broadband service, including many in communities as small as 3,000 people, Boise State Public Radio reports.
The state funded projects to provide free wireless internet in schools and public spaces, including downtown areas and parks. The Idaho Commission for Libraries was allocated $2 million to bring all-day Wi-Fi access to more than 50 rural libraries.
A report by the Pew Research Trusts said Idaho was one of a handful of states without a broadband grant program before the pandemic.
Georgia Dimmick, disaster recovery coordinator at Region IV Development in Twin Falls, helped several south central Idaho communities apply for state broadband grants over the summer.
Eden, a community of 400 residents in Jerome County, received nearly $3 million to bring service to more homes to address the impact of the pandemic and the lack of broadband service for its youth.
“There was like 20 or 30 kids out on the front yard at the high school because they didn’t have internet at their house, and they had to get their homework done,” Dimmick said.
Benewah County received about $42,000 to improve access to telehealth services.
Residents at Valley Vista Care nursing home in St. Maries will subsequently be able to connect remotely with Benewah Community Hospital, said Alex Barts, executive director of county economic development organization Timber Plus.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.