Missouri Farm Bureau Consultant Anita J. (Janie) Dunning provided a presentation on broadband for the BRPC membership. Janie is familiar with the region through working with USDA Rural Development. She talked about the investments in infrastructure that have been made in communities over the years, and how the communities will fall behind – no matter how much infrastructure is in place – if they don’t have broadband. Broadband means something different to everyone, depending on what they need it for. Individuals use it for social and recreational needs. Broader needs include precision farming, businesses marketing goods and services over the internet, and on-line education classes. Community needs, including healthcare/telemedicine, economic development, government services, and workforce development, also require access to broadband. Even with access, it may not be adequate. The speed may be too slow, or it may be slowed down due to the number of users or slowed deliberately if a person is at their data limit.
Janie shared the following facts:
- Nationally, Missouri is ranked as the 42nd most connected state.
- Missouri ranked 49th on average “peak” speeds – speeds advertised are typically maximum speeds, but not what one actually receives.
- 16.4% of the state has access to fiber optic service. This is important, as future technology will not “outgrow” fiber.
- 1.2 million people in Missouri are without access to a wired connection capable of 25 MBPS.
- 1.0 million people in Missouri have access to only one provider.
- 440,000 people in Missouri do not have any wired internet providers and use their mobile phones.Approximately 70% of Missouri’s population is urban, with 30% being rural. Land mass percentages are the opposite. About 61% of rural Missourians and 5% of urban Missourians lack broadband.
Again, access is important since 97% of Americans shop online for goods and services and 60-70% of job openings are posted online. Broadband infrastructure cost depends on the number of people to which the provider can spread the cost. Some rural areas in Missouri have as low as 1-2 people per square mile, which increases the price. Most of Missouri ranges from $40/month to $100/month or more, depending on location, technology, speed, and data plans. The population density in the Boonslick region is higher than most rural areas due to the close proximity to St. Louis. Janie shared a website where people can get a lot of information about broadband where they live, cautioning those present that not all information is correct, but can give an indication. She shared information about Lincoln, Montgomery, and Warren counties.
Access to broadband is necessary for the survival of rural areas. A state broadband office has been established and the Governor has proposed funding for broadband infrastructure and data gathering/mapping. Janie encouraged everyone to get involved and educate people. She then took questions from the group.