Project Brings Wireless Internet Service to Rural Missouri



Wireless broadband has arrived in rural Missouri, a test of new technology that could help in the continuing struggle to bring fast Internet service to non-urban America.

About 30 residents of the town of Turney are now enjoying wireless broadband as part of an effort known as Project OVERCOME, funded by the National Science Foundation and organized between local research partners and US Ignite.

The pilot project in rural Clinton County uses wireless devices to deploy fast broadband using RF-over-fiber (RFoF) technology to provide high-speed internet.

“Better than the Internet I have at home in Jefferson City!” Said Casey Canfield, assistant professor of engineering management and systems engineering at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, in an email to Government technology.

Missouri S&T is a principal investigator on the project, which includes other universities and partners like Maximize NWMO, a regional organization tasked with developing economic development, technology, and educational opportunities.

At least 17 million Americans still lack basic broadband internet service, a gap made all the more glaring by the COVID-19 pandemic and the instant need for remote work and learning.

The Missouri project aims to test technology that can reduce costs by providing broadband in an area without existing fiber infrastructure.

“We are trying to reduce capital costs and increase reliability by using multiple low bandwidth technologies rather than a single high bandwidth technology,” Canfield explained. “The smart router will also be open source so that others can build on our work. We try to think broadly about what it means to design a wireless network optimized for a rural context rather than an urban one.

Wireless technology can have its drawbacks in areas like reliability.

“They are affected by line of sight and the weather. We are working on simulations to better predict these impacts in order to develop ways to compensate, ”said Canfield.

County Clinton was chosen as the location for an OVERCOME Project initiative, in part because of the continued community development efforts led by Maximize SGDN, officials said.

“It was essential to build a strong team. Clinton County is a very typical rural Midwestern county that struggles to provide broadband service in small towns, ”Canfield said.

Building a fast and reliable network while reducing costs will be one of the primary considerations for the one-year pilot.

“Our primary strategy is to reduce capital costs and increase reliability by using multiple lower bandwidth devices that can be digitally assembled to be equivalent to a more expensive high bandwidth device,” Canfield said.

The OVERCOME project was launched almost a year ago with the aim of developing five broadband proof of concept projects in underserved or unserved communities. This effort is funded, in part, by a $ 1.95 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

Other OVERCOME project communities include Yonkers, NY; Cleveland, Ohio; Blue River, Oregon; Buffalo, New York; Loiza, Puerto Rico; and Detroit.

Skip Descant writes on smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation, and more. He has spent over 12 years reporting for dailies in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.

See more stories by Skip Descant


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