A press conference to highlight the need for rural broadband in Missouri was held at the Farm Bureau Building on the Missouri State Fairgrounds Aug. 17.

Randy Kirby

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo) stated the importance of broadband for small businesses, telemedicine, and agriculture.

"This is a critically-important issue for our ability to compete, in out-state Missouri" Blunt said. "It's been 20 years since the 1996 Telecommunications Act. $1.5 trillion private dollars have been invested in a broadband network. But it hasn't been invested in a way that everybody has equal access."

"Thirty-nine percent of the people in rural America don't have access to broadband. In Missouri, that figure is about two-thirds. And 70 percent of those people have concerns about their access," he noted, citing a survey taken at the Farm Bureau Building, according to MFB President Blake Hurst.

"Whether it’s selling a locally made product or competing in a worldwide economy, this is important. I also mentioned schools and telemedicine. Telemedicine really works. It works in behavioral health. It works in that emergency room setting, where suddenly you’re suddenly linked up to all kinds of access you wouldn’t have otherwise. This should be one of our top priorities," Blunt stated.

Sen. Blunt was joined at the press conference by Republican Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst, University of Missouri Vice Chancellor for Extension and Engagement Marshall Stewart, CEO of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives Barry Hart, and President of the Missouri Telecommunication Association Ric Telthorst.

Blunt spoke on the Senate floor a few days earlier to recognize August as “Rural Broadband Month” and highlight the importance of expanding high-speed internet to rural Missouri.

Greitens spoke of his plan to bring rural broadband to Missouri’s rural schools.

Missouri has collected (with funding from state and private donors) enough cash to deliver on his promise at schools starting with the 2018-19 academic year, he noted.

Greitens added that school districts can start working with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) now to get the process

"This is just the beginning," Gov. Greitens said.