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A Missourian special report on rural broadband
[DIS/CON/NEC/TED]

Lack of broadband puts Missouri behind

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Lack of broadband puts Missouri behind

Missouri has an internet problem — and rural Missourians are disproportionately facing the brunt of the impact.

Missouri ranks comparatively low in both connectivity and broadband speed in the United States, putting rural Missourians behind their urban counterparts, and Missouri as a whole behind other states.

A special project by the Columbia Missourian has found that lack of reliable access to the internet manifests itself in ways that touch on nearly every aspect of life. 

In many cases, people are left with speeds of only 0.5 Mbps. Forget Netflix or music — with those speeds business owners can’t keep their stores operating, residents sometimes can’t send email. That leaves some Missourians looking for expensive alternatives, such as checking into hotels so they can access Wi-Fi to operate their online business.

Missouri farmers are left behind, unable to stay competitive in a world that is becoming increasingly reliant on the internet to check crop prices and weather patterns, maintain medical records for livestock and operate GPS-reliant machinery.

Rural hospitals and other healthcare providers, already lacking specialized experts, can’t connect rural Missourians to the specialists they need.

And even when the technology is bought and paid for, poor broadband renders equipment in Fatima schools and others across Missouri useless as they are forced to ration internet to avoid hitting a cap that effectively shuts down the entire system. 

The problem has left behind a graveyard of failed legislation and initiatives over the years. Efforts within the Missouri General Assembly to address the problem have failed, and former governor Jay Nixon's now-defunct initiative MOBroadbandNow issued its last report in June 2015. 

And while there has been progress federally and locally, with Gov. Eric Greitens' administration bringing in over $40 million for broadband access in schools, experts say bringing broadband access to Missouri will take a major, continuous effort.

"No one organization or institute was tasked with solving broadband, and no one entity can solve the problem," said Luke Holtschneider, rural development manager for the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

Behind the scenes

Listen to the reporters talk about covering this issue in these podcasts.

Supervising editor is Mark Horvit, horvitm@missouri.edu.

  • State Government reporter for the Missourian. You can reach him at (573) 999-9389 or at dylanjackson@mail.missouri.edu

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