Lawmakers pass legislation to help expand broadband internet access

4 months 1 week 3 days ago Wednesday, May 13 2020 May 13, 2020 Wednesday, May 13, 2020 1:50:00 PM CDT May 13, 2020 in News
By: Greta Serrin, KOMU 8 Digital Producer

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri lawmakers passed a bill to help expand broadband access.

The bill extends the state's broadband grant program through 2027, according to a news release.

It also enables the state to retain any federal dollars it receives for building rural broadband to go farther than providers might be able to provide.

More than 1.2 million Missourians do not currently have access to high-speed internet. Missouri Chamber President and CEO Daniel P. Mehan said broadband internet is a critical resource for people to access, especially with more and more operations going remote.

“Broadband internet has become an essential resource that’s needed to run a business, complete schoolwork and communicate," Mehan said. "But today far too many families and businesses lack access to this resource.

The bill makes it possible for the state to reassign unused funds from one provider to another instead of the unused money going back to the federal government.

"House Bill 1768 will apply to the millions of dollars awarded to Missouri broadband providers from FCC and USDA Rural Development auctions as well as future federal broadband dollars that may be awarded," the release said. "Expanding broadband has been an ongoing priority of the Missouri Chamber for years, and the COVID-19 crisis made the need for this even more clear."

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