A newly-formed Missouri House committee on broadband development will hear testimony next month from Missouri’s largest general farm organization and from rural electric cooperatives.

State Rep. Louis Riggs (R-Hannibal) speaks on the Missouri House floor in Jefferson City on March 9, 2020 (file photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

The Missouri House Special Interim Committee on Broadband Development has scheduled a July 20th hearing in Jefferson City, to hear testimony from Missouri Farm Bureau and from the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives (AMEC). AMEC is a statewide organization that represents Missouri’s 47 rural electric co-ops. Their mission is to provide a means for the cooperatives to work together to accomplish things collectively that they could not do on their own.

“This is a very important committee addressing one of the main factors in the future of rural Missouri. The electric co-op’s are committed to doing everything possible to help make sure that rural Missouri continues to be successful. We look forward to discussing rural broadband and how the co-ops can assist in helping make high speed internet available to everyone,” AMEC Executive Vice President Caleb Jones tells Missourinet.

Jones is a former Missouri House member.

Pew Research representatives will also testify at the July hearing.

The committee held its first hearing earlier this month and learned that Missouri now ranks 32nd nationwide for broadband access, an increase of nine slots.

Committee Chairman State Rep. Louis Riggs (R-Hannibal) says there are still 392,364 Missourians who lack high-speed internet, either because it’s not available or they can’t afford it. That number is down from about 586,000 in 2018.

Chairman Riggs says infrastructure and accountability are barriers to access, saying 23 percent of Missouri’s students lack access to high-speed internet. He says most of those students are in rural Missouri.

The Missouri Farm Bureau pushed for creation of Missouri’s broadband development office, which started in 2018. It was created by the state Departments of Agriculture (MDA) and Economic Development (DED). The office’s aim is to accelerate deployment of broadband in Missouri.

Another issue that was briefly discussed at the first hearing involves federal dollars that will come to Missouri through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden (D).

House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith (R-Carthage) has said that Missouri is expected to receive billions of dollars in funding. Broadband office development director Tim Arbeiter testified this month that ARPA allows for broadband infrastructure.

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