PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The spread of COVID-19 through South Dakota that has taken at least 109 lives and infected more than 7,500 will have at least one lasting positive effect. It is speeding up the governor’s effort to improve rural internet service.

The Legislature provided a second round of $5 million for the initiative that Governor Kristi Noem began last year. Then another $6.5 million came from Congress through the CARES Act.

The Governor’s Office of Economic Development announced the latest rounds of grants last month. They’ll help pay for about $30 million of upgrades by local providers.

Five projects received grants from the state funding:

Alliance Communications, $766,800 for the Renner and Rowena areas

Beresford Municipal Telephone, $988,000 for the Beresford area

Northern Valley Communications, $933,832 for the rural Mina area

Santel, $983,533.50 and $1,056,533.50 for two rural areas of western Davison County.

The CARES money went to another nine projects:

Faith Municipal Telephone, $493,163 for the Faith area

Midco Communications, $286,474 for the Country Villa Estates area, west of Sioux Falls

Midco Communications, $190,620 for the Belle Fourche area

Northern Valley Communications, $1,472,831 for a rural Redfield area

Valley FiberCom, $455,648.50 for part of rural Moody County

Vast Broadband, $295,595 for the Copper Oaks area, south of Rapid City

Vast Broadband, $605,755 for the Volin, Monroe and Flyger areas of Yankton County

 Venture Communications, $2,807,767.64 for rural Hughes County

 West River Cable Television, $187,250 for the McIntosh area

There was other interest that wasn’t funded this time, according to GOED spokeswoman Natalie Likness. She said more than 4,000 current locations would see faster uploads and downloads.

Combined with $5 million of state grants last year that generated some $11 million of investments, the Noem administration will have accomplished more than $40 million of upgrades.

“Some industry experts estimate an additional $200 million in one-time investments is required to provide high speed, sustainable broadband services,” Likness said.