I want to express my appreciation of your recent coverage on Missouri’s broadband grant program, which gives communities and internet providers in rural areas of our state additional funding to invest in broadband infrastructure. The bill to extend the grant program through 2027 was signed by Governor Mike Parson earlier this month, and I know this means more Missouri households will soon have access to reliable, high-speed internet.
Many of us in Missouri almost take broadband access for granted, but it’s important to note that Missouri still ranks 41st nationally when it comes to providing reliable, high-speed internet to its residents. During these challenging times, broadband access is critical for us all.
As a long-time faculty member for online, nonprofit university Western Governors University (WGU), I know how important high-speed internet access is to the students we serve. Higher education has evolved and online learning tools and programs have become mainstream, but access to high-speed internet is key. This has only become more apparent as colleges and K-12 schools right here in the Lead Belt work to navigate the COVID-19 crisis. All schools need the ability to turn to online learning as an option when students and teachers cannot physically be in the classroom.
While it’s alarming that so many still lack broadband access, I am happy to see that Missouri has taken action, which is welcome news for the 20% of Missouri residents who still do not have broadband access. And I am hopeful that over the next few years all communities and households will have access to reliable, high-speed internet. Addressing this critical issue will expand our residents’ educational and career opportunities, and will change many lives for the better.