Missouri to create statewide broadband network by 2014

Wednesday, July 8, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Gov. Jay Nixon announced Tuesday the creation of a program that aims to establish statewide broadband Internet access by 2014.

The program, MoBroadbandNow, will consist of businesses and organizations that will partner with the state to compete for funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Interested businesses must submit an application by 2 p.m. on July 13 at the Office of Administration in Jefferson City.

The Recovery Act authorized $7.2 billion for state broadband programs, including $4.5 billion for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and $2.5 billion for the Rural Utilities Service.

The program aims to create a "fiber-optic broadband backbone" that would reach even the most rural areas in Missouri.

One of the businesses that will be submitting an application to partner with the state is Big River Telephone Company in Cape Girardeau. 

"This initiative has been in our business plan since our inception in 2001," Big River President Kevin Cantwell said. Before the funding, "the fiscal cost to deliver copper lines and run fiber 10 miles to connect five or six homes ... economically, just didn't make sense."

Nixon spokesman Scott Holste said the state will be looking to partner with companies that have experience in fiber optics and broadband expansion to implement the program.

"This is akin to the expansion of railroads in the 19th century and creation of the interstate highway system in the 20th century," Holste said.

Holste said the program is somewhat modeled on what Iowa has done to provide Internet access to the state, and the governor's office spoke with former Iowa governor and current U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on how to best implement the broadband network in Missouri.

The program is also expected to have an economic impact by creating jobs in technological fields that will carry out the construction and operation of the fiber-optic network.

“We’ll immediately hire 59 people, and could hire up to 100 new people,” said Cantwell, whose company currently employs 68 people.

Missouri ranks 39th nationally in Internet download speed, according to a 2008 study conducted by Communications Workers of America.

“The goal is to progress to a day when hospitals, schools and businesses in every part of the state will have broadband access,” Holste said.

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Clara Allen July 8, 2009 | 7:31 a.m.

I live 10 miles from the intersection of Broadway and 63. My best current option is AT&T's wireless service, but I have to lock in at 2g rather than the advertised 3g because I am in the netherworld of cell towers. It's more exurban than suburban, but it's not exactly rural, particularly since I am three miles from the interstate.

When I ask the phone company about fiber optic they laugh.

(Report Comment)
Jim Walter July 9, 2009 | 1:58 p.m.

Thats really great to be able to hire all those employees! However, don't forget that someone is going to layoff the same number of employees because the "government" is going to compete with private industry, again, and become even more bloated.

If you think the State of Missouri is going to provide fiber to the home you don't know the business. They will only provide backbone infrastructure.


(Report Comment)
David Mudloff July 14, 2009 | 8:41 a.m.

I'm a little surprised that such a project is being contemplated by the state, especially when an existing private fiber optic network exists today.(see is the state planning to use federal tax handouts to compete with private sector service providers????

(Report Comment)
Larry Bartels July 14, 2009 | 1:30 p.m.

In Iowa did they tell you that the State run fiber has been in bad shape for years. Also the backbone was already their by Phone Companies already. They did the same thing spent tax money to build what was already available. They didn't upgrade their equipment and now to will get a bail out with government money. Did i say that?

(Report Comment)

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