Missouri lawmakers push for better broadband internet

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.-- It's something that can affect your healthcare, business opportunities, and more... it's broadband internet. More than one million Missourians don't have access to it. But, lawmakers at the state and federal level are trying to change that.

One report says 1.25 million people in Missouri, about 20 percent of the population, don't have access to broadband internet. Most of those people are in rural areas. However, getting broadband access to more people seems to be a priority for a lot of your lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans. That includes Springfield's-own, Representative Curtis Trent (R-Springfield). "It will enable economic development, telemedicine, virtual education. I mean, there are really limitless applications."

Trent has a bill flying through the Legislature that would put down in state law, that lawmakers are committed to getting broadband to more people, and using electric co-ops's current un-used capacity to do so. Trent says, "It makes a lot of sense, in my mind, to use that excess bandwidth to deploy broadband capabilities to individuals in rural areas. You don't have to duplicate infrastructure. It should save the state a lot of money."

However, one of the reasons it's flying through the Statehouse, is that it's symbolic. Co-ops are already doing this, so the bill doesn't actually change anything that's currently happening. However, Governor Eric Greitens (R-Missouri) has launched a couple initiatives to expand broadband infrastructure, and there are other bills that would create grant programs to actually fund rural broadband. But, those are moving more slowly, because money is required. However, just last week, President Donald Trump rolled out his 2019 budget proposal, which includes $50 billion dollars for rural communities.

Trump says, "Washington will no longer be a roadblock to progress. Washington will now be your partner, a lot of money."

But, in that $50 billion, is nothing ear-marked, specifically, for broadband. It will be up to the states, like Missouri, to decide where that money goes, and some could go to broadband.

Also, it should be stressed that Trump is making a budget proposal. The actual budget is now being hashed out with Congress.