JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Gov. Eric Greitens announced Monday afternoon that he would be putting $45 million to establish rural broadband internet access in the state of Missouri.
Rural broadband is frequently cited by agricultural and rural communities as a primary need for the state to advance and match urban and suburban areas. Greitens newly appointed Director of Agriculture, Chris Chinn, named rural broadband access as one of her top priorities.
“For too long, Missouri’s rural communities have been forgotten,” Greitens said in a statement. “We were sent here to fight for all Missouri families, and that’s what we’re doing. During the transition, we got to work and developed a long-term plan to bring quality Internet access to Missouri’s small towns. This is an important first step on that mission and a big achievement.”
According to a release from Greitens’ office, more than 100 school districts in the Show-Me State lack access to quality internet. Greitens says that making this investment will allow those districts to bring in quality internet using fiber optic connections.
Currently, more than one hundred Missouri school districts do not have access to quality Internet because of a lack of infrastructure. This strategic investment will allow those districts to bring quality broadband Internet to their schools via fiber optic connections. By working with the House and Senate to appropriate $6 million in this year’s budget, Governor Greitens will unlock $39 million in matching federal E-Rate funds for these schools.
The funds will come from state, private and federal funds, working with the House and Senate to appropriate $6 million in this year’s budget and pulling the other $39 million in using the Federal Communications Commission’s E-Rate program to help bring broadband to the rural districts without high-speed internet.
The Missouri Farm Bureau applauded the move, releasing a statement on Monday saying:
“The availability of high-speed internet is vital to the future of our state’s rural communities and we look forward to working with the Governor and others who view this as a priority. There is much to be done and we are confident that by working together we can ensure all Missourians have access to high-quality, competitively-priced broadband.”
Benjamin Peters was a reporter for The Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine and also produced the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined The Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield.