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Hannibal Courier-Post: Blunt working for expansion of broadband service in rural Mo.

March 05, 2019

Sen. Roy Blunt spoke of his goal to increase broadband service to rural Missouri during his March 2 press conference at the Ralls County Electric Cooperative office in New London.

Blunt said 51 percent of rural Missouri does not have broadband service, compared to 35 percent of rural areas nationwide.

RCEC General Manager Lynn Hodges and the board members said RCEC provides broadband to all its members and works with Ralls County cities who are seeking to add it.

Hodges said many rural residents have asked why more broadband isn’t available, and why Perry was among the first Ralls County cities seeking broadband.

Chris Chinn, Missouri Director of Agriculture, said broadband is the gold standard, but “1.2 million people in Missouri don’t have access.” She added that as a farmer, she knows how important technology is for modern farming.

Blunt said as a member of the Senate Commerce and Appropriations Committees, he helped lead efforts to end the digital divide that has left half of rural Missourians without broadband. He said a funding bill was recently signed, providing $550 million for a rural broadband pilot grant and loan program that focuses resources on expanding high speed internet to areas that need it most.

Blunt said that in August 2018, the FCC announced Missouri will receive nearly $255 million over 10 years to expand rural broadband, and Missouri will receive about 17 percent of the total amount awarded nationwide, the most of any state.

Hodges agreed with Blunt and Riggs that “the federal dollars are critical for us to continue the expansion of fiber optics. ... The demand is out there.”?

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