GUEST COMMENTARY: Rural broadband comes closer to reality

AP

Print Article

The Missouri legislature has taken another step toward making broadband internet accessible to all Missourians. In early May, the legislature finalized the annual state budget, which included a $5 million appropriation for the newly created Rural Broadband Development Fund.

Gov. Mike Parson supports improved broadband access and is expected to sign it into law.

Missouri has lagged far behind where it should be in broadband access. As recently as last year, Missouri was ranked 42nd in the nation in broadband connectivity.

Over 1 million Missourians do not have access to high-speed internet. The only states with more citizens lacking internet access are California and Texas, each with many times Missouriís population.

Missouri Farm Bureau, University of Missouri Extension, the Missouri Department of Agriculture and Missouri Department of Natural Resources have been working with legislators and state government for several years to make broadband more accessible to rural Missourians.

In 2017, the group brought together over 100 stakeholders from private industry, all levels of government and advocacy groups for a summit to discuss ways to improve access for unserved and underserved areas.

The consensus from this summit was that Missouri needed a more organized approach to its broadband deployment. Several other states have done this with great success. The coalition called on the governor to establish an office to coordinate broadband deployment, which he did in 2018.

This new Office of Broadband, housed within the Department of Economic Development, is preparing an action plan for Missouriís broadband deployment efforts. It is also working with the telecommunications industry and the federal government to modernize mapping of Missouriís current broadband assets.

We need to have a good understanding of what we have before we spend money to fill in the gaps.

During the last legislative session, Missouri Farm Bureau and other organizations worked with the state legislature to create the Rural Broadband Development Fund. This fund did not see any appropriations in 2018 but will receive the $5 million amount from the 2019 budget.

The fund will issue grants to assist broadband deployment projects in unserved or underserved areas of Missouri. No grant can provide more than half of a projectís total cost. Therefore, the grants issued with this yearís appropriation will be able to fund at least $10 million worth of projects.

The day before the state budget vote, the U.S. House of Representatives also approved broadband legislation. The Advancing Critical Connectivity Expands Service, Small Businesses Resources, Opportunities, Access, and Data Based on Assessed Need and Demand Act, HR 1328, passed by voice vote.

This mouthful of a bill would establish a federal Office of Internet Connectivity to coordinate efforts much like the state Office of Broadband.

These efforts, combined with many others on both the state and federal levels, will help our rural areas get connected and boost economic opportunities. We need to continue to press for all Missourians to have access to fast, reliable internet. The modern world demands it.

Eric Bohl is director of public affairs for Missouri Farm Bureau, the stateís largest farm organization. He lives in Columbia.

Print Article

Read More National News

Rainfall postpones new ag park opening, but weekday markets start soon

AP

May 19, 2019 at 5:00 am | Spring storms have delayed the opening of the Columbia agriculture park project at Clary-Shy Community Park for the third time this year. The anticipated opening is now early June. Despite the de...

Comments

Read More

MU graduate honors father at School of Medicine convocation

AP

May 18, 2019 at 3:15 pm | Ninety-four medical students were hooded at the School of Medicine graduation ceremony Saturday afternoon in Jesse Auditorium. As the hoods were passed down the line of faculty members, one was p...

Comments

Read More

Honors Convocation celebrates 1,520 graduates, honorary degree recipients

AP

May 18, 2019 at 1:00 pm | Peace was the emphasis Saturday during the Honors Convocation, where 1,520 graduates were celebrated, along with anti-aparteid leader Albert ďAlbieĒ Sachs and Columbia pastor Mel West, both of whom r...

Comments

Read More

Missouri softball falls to UCLA in NCAA Regionals

AP

May 18, 2019 at 8:02 pm | UCLA centerfielder Bubba Nickles hit a homerun on the first pitch UCLA saw for one of her five RBI as the Bruins run-ruled Missouri 9-1 in five innings in Los Angeles, in the third game of NCAA Regio...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(208) 263-9534
PO Box 159
Sandpoint, ID 83864

©2019 Bonner County Daily Bee Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X