Connecting Rural Missouri
In the 1930s, rural electrification was a game-changer for folks across the country. It completely changed the future for millions of Americans, bringing their lives into the 20th Century. Now we face a similar moment in our nation’s history and the history of rural America.
In the world we now live in, everything seems to revolve around high-speed broadband internet access. This isn’t just about streaming movies; it’s about millions of Americans having access to reliable, high-speed internet for telecommuting, telemedicine, precision agriculture, online college courses, and just about any business activity today. This is about driving our economy forward into the 21st Century by connecting rural America.
Last week, I met with stakeholders from across North Missouri who are actively engaged in expanding high-speed broadband service throughout our state. They know the importance of being connected, the roadblocks that stand in our way, and what it will take to get it done.
Expanding high-speed broadband access across North Missouri and the rest of the state comes with a high cost, but it will pay dividends for years to come. This is why my congressional colleagues and I are working to ensure grant and loan programs help bring high-speed internet access to those without. In fact, the USDA released a report this week which showed that building out high-speed broadband to farms and ranches alone could offer at least a $47 billion boost to our economy, every year. This shows just how critical this is to the future success of our economy in rural America.
One thing I heard clearly in our meeting is that the federal government must help—not hinder—the build-out of high-speed broadband. We need accurate, up-to-date maps reflecting who has access to reliable, fast internet and who doesn’t. We need to make sure our rules and regulations ensure that federal money is being spent appropriately and effectively. Companies awarded federal money must provide the speeds they have committed to offer and they should be the ones on the hook if they don’t, not the folks in the areas they promised to serve.
We also must make sure rural America has access to "high-speed" internet, not prohibitively slow and unreliable internet. There are a lot of folks in North Missouri that can get something masquerading as usable internet, but don’t have access to the fast, reliable high-speed broadband they need. The speeds that used to be adequate 15 years ago don't cut it today. And what’s usable today, won’t be 15 years from now. Our policies should reflect that reality.
This problem is complicated, but we must solve it. Folks affected by it know exactly how significant this problem is every time they receive a “buffering” notification while trying to complete an online course or carry out even routine business online. I do believe we are making great strides towards getting the high-speed internet access we need, but we still have a long way to go. We cannot stop now; the future of North Missouri depends on it.