CARES Act money will improve internet access in Blaine County’s most rural communities.

The rural communities of Carey and Picabo have been awarded a combined $1 million worth of state grants to improve internet connectivity.

Carey received $655,852 to go toward local government and public safety, while Picabo received $419,995 to provide high-speed internet access to underserved homes, according to a press release from the Carey-Picabo Chamber of Commerce.

Both were State of Idaho Public Broadband Grants, awarded to more than 100 projects across the state under the federal CARES Act.

“With the ongoing pandemic, broadband connectivity is more essential than ever,” Jacob Greenberg, chairman of the Blaine County commissioners, said in a statement. “This will be a major telecommunication win for both Carey and Picabo.”

The Carey grant will provide fiber access to the Carey City Hall and Community Center and establish a hotspot at the Blaine County fairground, according to the Chamber of Commerce. The hotspot can be used by up to 100 users for remote learning, telehealth appointments, and other critical needs.

 The Picabo grant, meanwhile, will provide higher-speed internet “to existing under-served homes, the Chamber said, as well as provide access for undeveloped parcels.

“Workforce for our businesses and increasingly, professional relocations, can rely on improved connectivity with the world,” said Harry Griffith, executive director of Sun Valley Economic Development. “Expansion of telehealth, better connections for public safety services and increased capacity for distance learning will significantly improve the quality of life for a majority of Carey and Picabo families.”

Work on both projects is expected to start later in the summer, subject to finalizing a contract for installation, according to the Carey-Picabo Chamber of Commerce. Terms of the CARES Act dictate that the project must be completed by Dec. 15 of this year. Work on both projects will be performed by SafeLink Wireless.

The grants were obtained with help from Sun Valley Economic Development, the Blaine County commissioners, the city of Carey, the Blaine County School District and St. Luke’s Wood River, according to Carey-Picabo Chamber of Commerce President Mike Higgs.

“I could not be more thrilled about receiving this grant,” Higgs said in a statement. “This is a win not just for our communities, but for county-wide cooperation and collaboration.”

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