Missouri’s Office of Broadband Development has been in the process of carrying out its extensive public engagement process for the Connecting All Missourians programs. The programs are funded under the Digital Equity Act and the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program, which is part of the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act.
BJ Tanksley, the Director with the Office of Broadband Development, tells Missourinet that the broadband meetings wrap up this week, “Wednesday and Thursday, we are in Warrenton and then the St. Louis area on Wednesday. Then, on Thursday, we are in Rolla and Camdenton, Missouri, so hitting the Central Missouri area as we work our way back towards Jefferson City.”
These meetings gauge input from community leaders in education, healthcare, economic development, and residents to discuss strengths and weaknesses when it comes to broadband access. They are also part of a $400 million plan to improve broadband infrastructure across the state of Missouri, as announced by Governor Mike Parson in August 2021.
“What wasn’t surprising was we heard from a lot of people, or have so far, about a lack of access, whether that be in St. Louis where they’re having access to quality service or true rural areas of Missouri where there may be no service,” according to Tanksley who outlined the big issues he’s seen. “What has really been interesting, I guess that I learned is people out there really want that access, and many of them have gone to great lengths to try to connect, whether that be through nontraditional providers, satellite services, and other things and really tried to meet their needs and a lot of times, they’re coming to these meetings saying ‘I haven’t been able to do so, we need a quality service that meets our family’s needs that we can access at home.’”
#TeamDED‘s Broadband team continues their statewide “Connecting All Missourians” tour! Each stop is vital to collecting feedback from stakeholders on each region’s specific needs. We invite you to attend! To register: https://t.co/YsCvHSZcxW pic.twitter.com/92NNHiFic0
— MO Department of Economic Development (@MoEcoDevo) November 1, 2022
Additionally, the Office of Broadband Development will make another tour of the state in 2023 and plans to provide more opportunities to provide feedback through this process.
Tanksley added the engagement continues at the regional planning level, “We are wanting to continue that conversation throughout the winter. We’ll have very focused conversations where we visit with providers about the area. We visit with local governments. We visit with potential digital equity supporters in that area where we really try to drill down into those issues because, over the next six to nine months, our office will put together plans which become our applications for the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act funding.”
Gov. Parson’s plan was developed to address broadband connectivity challenges. In addition, the Missouri Department of Economic Development submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration Broadband Infrastructure Program requesting more than $50 million for deployment. The funding, if it’s approved, could support nearly 20 projects.
Click the player below to listen to Tanksley’s interview with Anthony Morabith for Show Me Today: