April 21, 2011

Regional Technology Planning Team Gathers in Memphis to Discuss High-Speed Internet Expansion

As part of Gov. Jay Nixon's efforts to expand broadband and high-speed Internet access throughout Missouri, the state hosted a kick-off meeting in Memphis to discuss the region's technology needs.

The Northeast Missouri Broadband Regional Technology Planning Team (RTPT) held the first of three scheduled meetings on Wednesday, April 13, 2011. in the conference room of the Northeast Missouri Regional Planning Commission office in Memphis.

David Mockert of GeoDecisions, Madison, WI, led the meeting, which was designed to assess the current status of broadband in this area, the obstacles faced, and the efforts in place to improve availability.

"Broadband is important for quality of life to all Missourians and allows them to compete globally," said MoBroadbandNow Director Damon Porter. "We are gathering community input to create an understanding of where broadband exists today and identify areas where expansion is needed."

MoBroadbandNow, a public/private partnership launched as part of the governor's Transform Missouri effort, is bringing local communities together to work to improve broadband, commonly thought of as high-speed Internet access, around the state.

Volunteers from the NEMO RPC's six-county service area of Clark, Scotland, Schuyler, Knox, Lewis and Adair counties, will work together to gather community feedback and to create a strategic broadband plan designed to meet local and regional broadband needs. The team will be led by Melody Whitacre, Community Economic Development Specialist with the NEMO RPC.

This 15 member team features representatives from each of the six counties who were selected based on their involvement in agriculture, economic development, energy and environment, healthcare, higher education, libraries, public schools, public safety, local government, local internet providers, and tourism.

The group will work over the next 18 months to develop a strategic plan to implement their solutions and to craft benchmarks for success in the region.

Currently, fewer than 80 percent of Missourians have broadband access. The state's goal is to increase accessibility to 95 percent of the total population over the next few years.

Residents of Missouri can test whether they have a high-speed Internet connection by visiting a recently launched online speed test at http://www.speedtest.mobroadbandnow.org. The date from each test will be aggregated into an interactive map that will ultimately paint a picture of high-speed connectivity throughout Missouri.

The MoBoardbandNow initiative is funded by the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and is meant to help communities close the gap on high-speed Internet access by putting valuable tools and information in their hands as they work with public and private stakeholders to design solutions.

"These critical broadband goals can be achieved by all of us pitching in to work together for the future of our children, ourselves, and our state," said Commissioner Kelvin Simmons who is leading the statewide initiative. "AS collaborative approach is imperative to ensure that these investments and those in the future, meet the needs of our citizens, businesses and governments."

Missouri was awarded more than $275 million in stimulus funds to meet these goals.

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