Proposed grant system would help bring broadband to rural Missouri

A proposal to improve broadband access would create a grant system to fund service expansion in rural areas of Missouri.

The bill, which had its first hearing Wednesday, would establish the Missouri Rural Broadband Development Fund. The fund would provide matching money to companies or entities that wish to enter communities without broadband access.

Rep. Delus Johnson, R-St. Joseph, wrote the bill in response to a special report of broadband, also known as high-speed internet, in rural areas published in early January.

Johnson proposed different legislation in 2011 and 2012 that would have authorized a tax credit for the cost of the broadband equipment, but failed. He said that this bill is a more permanent solution.

If created, the Missouri Department of Economic Development would accept applications, Johnson said, which would give preference to neglected areas. Areas that have limited services like telemedicine or educational institutes with weak broadband access would be given priority.

Johnson said the funding for the proposed grant system would come mainly from general revenue.

Read more: Columbia Missourian

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