Today Governor Eric Greitens announced that the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED) in partnership with the Missouri Department of Agriculture is launching a new statewide initiative to expand broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas. Missouri’s rural communities are at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to business development, healthcare, and farming techniques because of a lack of high-speed internet.
“We are working for every single Missourian. That's why we're proud to announce today that we’re launching a joint initiative between the Department of Economic Development and the Department of Agriculture to get broadband access to our rural communities. This new effort will bring every resource to bear to connect Missourians across our state,” said Governor Eric Greitens.
Kicking off the initiative, DED plans to hire a Missouri Rural Broadband Manager to lead the effort and serve as a liaison between federal, state, regional and local broadband discussions. The new position will build and strengthen partnerships between public and private stakeholders, and align efforts statewide to improve broadband access.
The FCC Broadband Progress Report shows that 1.25 million Missourians – or 20% -- don’t have access to high-speed Internet (25mpbs/3mbps). The majority of those citizens reside in rural communities.
Governor Greitens previously announced that in cooperation with the state legislature, private sector partners, and the federal government, Missouri has launched a $45 million program that will enable every public school in Missouri to build the infrastructure for quality internet access. Today, schools are working with the administration to assess their needs and submit applications for funding. (https://governor.mo.gov/news/archive/governor-greitens-announces-program-bring-quality-internet-access-every-school-missouri)
“Today’s announcement, a key recommendation from an earlier statewide meeting, is a welcome step for rural Missourians. Farm Bureau members believe fast, affordable internet should be available to everyone, but our state has routinely been at the back of the pack in broadband infrastructure. Having a centralized clearinghouse to help direct traffic and lead Missouri’s infrastructure efforts can help coordinate our efforts and get service to all parts of our state much more quickly. We are thankful to Governor Greitens for his leadership on this issue and look forward to continuing to advocate for affordable broadband service until it is available to every Missourian,” said Blake Hurst, President of the Missouri Farm Bureau.
“In today’s digital age, access to the internet is a necessity for growth in almost any industry,” Rob Dixon, Acting Director for the Missouri Department of Economic Development said. “This will help ensure that all of Missouri will have the infrastructure needed to support job creation.”
In addition to a number of state and federal agencies, stakeholder organizations and the private sector, the Department of Economic Development will partner with the Department of Agriculture to further connect Missouri.
Since becoming Director of Agriculture, Chris Chinn has been an ardent champion for rural broadband. The Department’s “connect MORE” initiative is focused squarely on connecting every last mile in the state so that rural communities are no longer left behind.
“Connecting rural Missouri to technology and adequate internet means there will be brighter, more vibrant communities for the next generation to call home,” Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn said. “It means additional agricultural advancements, better education, more comprehensive healthcare services and an enhanced quality of life— all of which are necessary to incentivize retention and growth.”
For more information about the new position, or to apply, click here.