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Broadband expansion bill aims to help bring access to a million Missourians

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According to Missouri Lawmakers, the state ranks 41st in the nation for broadband internet access and 49th for speed, something many people trying to learn or work from home have been dealing with in recent weeks.

5th district representative Louis Riggs said a new bill, which passed right before the end of the legislative session last week, aims to help bring access to around 1 million Missourians.

In Northeast Missouri many office desks are empty, but for those workers who are still coming in, they said they would rather be at home if they could be there.

"Because of the COVID-19 we printed many billboards and banners open for curbside service and hospitals, thanking our heroes," said Ann Miller, a customer service representative at Independents Service Co. in Hannibal.

She said while the sign printing business has been busy, she's one of the few people in the office these days, as she lives in a rural area without high speed access.

"They are able to work from home because they are in the city limits and have access to high speed internet," said Miller.

Riggs said this legislation is yet another step towards getting people like miller online at home.

"Online resources during this pandemic have proven themselves to be a very hot topic, indeed, everybody gets it now that this is no longer a luxury it's a necessity," said Riggs.

He said one of the key points of the bill is making sure federal funds given to co-ops or companies trying to expand that would otherwise go back to the federal government stay in Missouri.

"We want to make sure that we keep those monies in Missouri, working for Missourians to build out this broadband capacity that we so desperately need," said Riggs.

Miller said while they can use things like wireless hot spots for light usage, for her and her family, broadband access is becoming more and more of a need.

"Our daughter too is a teacher, and so she's had to adjust to at her home, having children at home. Plus, trying to be able to get internet, so she can get assignments to her classroom," said Miller.

Representative Riggs said that legislation that has to the governor's desk for his approval, and the bill also extended the state's broadband expansion fund and 5G exploration program to 2027 and 2025, respectively.

Frank Healy

Multimedia Journalist at WGEM

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