Missouri House Committee to hear August testimony from Google and from rural internet providers

Regional News

(Missourinet)– Representatives from tech giant Google will testify next month before Missouri lawmakers in Jefferson City about broadband development in Missouri.

Google representatives will travel from California to testify before the Missouri House Special Interim Committee on Broadband Development on August 16. That’s a Monday. Macon-based Chariton Valley and Smithton-based Wisper Internet representatives will also testify, along with Kansas City.

The committee is chaired by State Rep. Louis Riggs (R-Hannibal), who announced at the end of the June hearing that he wanted to hear from internet providers in August. The committee is meeting monthly through December.

“The hopes (for the interim committee) are that we find basically a path forward in terms of what do we need to do legislatively to get there, what do we need to do as appropriators to get there,” Chairman Riggs told Missourinet in June.

Riggs expects the August 16 hearing to last four hours.

State broadband office development director Tim Arbeiter has testified that Missouri ranks 32nd nationwide for broadband access. Mr. Arbeiter testified in June that more than 392,000 Missourians lack high-speed internet, either because it’s not available or because they can’t afford it. That number is down from 586,000 in 2018.

Chairman Riggs and Director Arbeiter say infrastructure and accountability are barriers to access, saying 23 percent of Missouri’s students lack access to high-speed internet. Riggs says most of those students are in rural Missouri.

Arbeiter testifies that Missouri ranks in the bottom five for access to low-cost internet, and that only 55 percent of Missourians have access to a low-cost internet plan. Affordability continues to be a major issue.

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