A state lawmaker from southwest Missouri is optimistic that the General Assembly will approve his broadband bill by May.
State Rep. Curtis Trent, R-Springfield, has legislation declaring the intent of the Legislature to encourage development of fiber optic infrastructure by Missouri’s rural electric cooperatives.
“Rural broadband is critical to deploy education opportunities, health care, telemedicine, because it’s difficult to have physical structures,” Trent says.
The bill declares that the expansion of broadband service is in the best interests of Missourians.
Trent, a freshman lawmaker, tells Missourinet rural electric cooperatives have a lot of unused capacity.
“So we want to enable them to make that unused capacity available for all kinds of residential and commercial purposes,” says Trent.
The Missouri House has given final approval to Trent’s bill by a 149-1 vote.
The Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee has also approved the bill, which will now head to the Senate floor.
House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, emphasized the importance of Trent’s bill, during a recent Statehouse address to about 150 Missouri Farm Bureau members.
Richardson says Missouri currently ranks 40th in the nation in access to broadband service.
“I think that the state has looked at other options to deploy broadband that would require us to spend a lot of taxpayer money and build duplicative infrastructure,” Trent says.
He says rural broadband is also critical for agriculture.
The Missouri Legislature is currently on spring break. Lawmakers will return to Jefferson City on March 26.
Trent was elected to the House in 2016. His district includes southwest Springfield, Battlefield and parts of Greene County.
Click here to listen to the full interview between Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth and State Rep. Curtis Trent, R-Springfield, which was recorded on March 21, 2018: