Kansas City, Missouri – The state aims to make fast internet available for all homes by 2028, mainly using money from the federal government. BJ Tanksley, who leads the government’s broadband office, talked about this plan on Wednesday during a meeting.
The office got $1.7 billion from a federal program to help spread internet throughout the area. Only Texas and California got more money from this program. Nearby states like Kansas and Illinois received $450 million and $1 billion.
In the budget suggested by the governor last week, the state is only putting $2 million of its own money into the broadband project out of nearly $2 billion.
Last year, the government used $261 million from a federal fund to support internet projects. They approved 60 projects to bring internet to places that don’t have good access. Nine of these projects are already finished, according to Tanksley.
“We still have a large number of unserved locations. There is a dramatic (broadband) need for the state of Missouri,” said Tanksley.
The Office of Broadband Development has introduced a new online map that shows the level of internet access at every address in the state. It reveals that 15% of homes in Missouri don’t have proper internet service.
Internet companies prefer to set up in cities because there are more people who might use their service. It’s less attractive for them to work in rural areas, where there are fewer people.
This pattern is clear on the map, especially in Columbia. The city center has strong internet service, but this gets weaker in the countryside. In Columbia city, nearly everyone can access the internet, but in the rural parts of Boone County, only about 78% can, based on the map.
The big amount of money from federal grants is supposed to encourage companies to expand internet service to areas that don’t have enough. To connect every home with the internet, the government needs people’s feedback. The map lets people see if their home is listed as having internet, what companies are available, and the speed they offer.
Starting in late March, people can check the map and say if something’s wrong, like if it shows they have internet service when they don’t. The Broadband Office will look into these reports to make sure they know exactly where service is needed.
Representative Adrian Plank, from Columbia, supports this effort but worries about how some areas might feel left out if they get internet service much later than others. He’s concerned because the project relies a lot on federal money, which might be handed out more slowly than state money.
The state is also getting $24 million from another federal program to help with digital fairness. The Broadband Office wants to use this money to help people understand the digital world better, learn about online safety, and get more involved on the internet, Tanksley explained.