Rural Missourians Fight for Internet Connection

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CHRISTIAN COUNTY, Mo. – Slow internet might be annoying to some Missouri residents, but having no internet at all is a serious problem for others.

Wednesday, U.S. Senator for Missouri Roy Blunt pledged to do something about the state’s lacking internet connectivity, but it’s not the first time Missourians have heard that promise.

After pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into improving rural internet, the state is still behind the rest of the nation.

A state struggling to get affordable internet to its rural residents, and in some cases struggling to get internet at all, is supported by a community library fighting its own battle for funding. The public library, and its director Geri Godber, are asking for a 20-cent tax levy to open libraries in other rural areas, like Nixa, Sparta and Clever.

“We have many veterans who come in to apply for some of their benefits,” Godber said. “Senior citizens come in to update social security information. Like I said, taxes is a big time that we have people come in.”

The library is doing its best to meet the need for rural internet in Missouri. It’s a need Sandy Wehnes and her family learned about after moving to Ozark.

“We moved here from Washington state,” Wehnes said. “Internet was very inexpensive there. Here it’s very expensive, and so it was just like, what is most important?”

Former Gov. Jay Nixon spent $300 million is state and federal funding to improve Missouri’s internet by 2014. Missouri was the 37th most connected state when Nixon’s five-year plan ended that year. Now, Missouri’s dropped to 42nd.

“It’s not just simply connecting with their loved ones and using the internet for fun,” Godber said. “It’s using it for pertinent things that they need to survive.”

Gov. Eric Greitens announced a plan in April to get internet to every school in Missouri. U.S. Senator for Missouri Roy Blunt was on the Senate floor Wednesday to talk about the importance of internet connectivity, in what he’s calling “Rural Broadband Month.”

Whether or not change happens, the Wehnes family has found its provider.

“For those of us are a limited income and that, the libraries are our lifeline,’ Wehnes said

The Christian County library tax levy vote is scheduled for next Tuesday. The proposal needs a majority vote to pass. All Christian County residents are eligible to vote on the issue.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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