Hundreds of people packed the Truman Hotel in Jefferson City for the summit

The state has already secured almost $200 million in federal grants to improve broadband internet access in rural areas.

More than two hundred local government, public safety, education, and health care leaders are in Jefferson City for a two-day summit on the state’s broadband efforts. Governor Nixon addressed the crowd to open the summit.

“There is no other state where everybody is sitting in one room working together the way we are here. There is no other place in America where 260 people are saying, ‘let’s work together to make sure we compete to be the best. That we use these resources to expand business and opportunity in our state.’ I think we can do it,” Nixon said.

Nixon says he hopes this group can help identify more areas of the state that still don’t have broadband access, or need expansion of the capabilities.

“They’ll be divided into areas of expertise first of all. We want the law enforcement people working on law enforcement issues; we want the education people working on education issues, health care. And plus we’re also going to stand up these 19 regional planning councils, much like we’ve done in the economic development where we divide the state into regions. We really do believe that the needs in some areas are much different than others, and the challenges, quite frankly,” Nixon said.

Natelle Dietrich is the Director of Utility Operations with the Missouri Public Service Commission

“In each field there’s going to be special needs and then as you go around the state there’s going to be different things that are needed. There are gonna be some areas of the state where you can’t plow fiber and so it may be a wireless-type solution. So depending on where you’re located and what your need is, there’s going to be a different solution,” Dietrich said.

Governor Nixon addresses the crowd

Nixon says this coordination can give Missouri a distinct advantage.

“A lot of states had grant applications, in essence, fighting against each other. Our goal is to take all the resources we have and use them together to move forward and I think coordinating that is especially important. Plus it will help spur where we have what are called middle-mile projects, which is basically the interstate coming by your town or by your business. This can help spur that private sector investment for some of those last-mile projects that will help in some areas that don’t have last-mile yet, to complete that process,” Nixon said.

Dietrich says this is a hot topic at her office.

“We receive calls every day, ‘When am I going to get broadband? Why don’t I have broadband?’ So I think this is one way to let Missourians know that people are looking at it and trying to address their needs,” Dietrich said.

Dietrich says she’s familiar with many of the broadband companies at the summit, but hasn’t met many of the local government, public safety, education, and health care leaders on hand before.

“It’s very exciting because when we tried to gather information a few years ago there were a lot of roadblocks. This way, we have several people coming together, providing information. We have an organized method to get information, to share information, and I think the interaction will be good,” Dietrich said.

Governor Nixon says he hopes to see the summit become an annual event.

AUDIO: Ryan Famuliner reports [1 min MP3]