|COLUMBIA – Gov. Matt Blunt today signed an executive order creating a new Rural High-Speed Internet Access Task Force that will identify opportunities to increase access to technology across the state. The governor signed the executive order at a telecommunications symposium held on the campus of the University of Missouri-Columbia. The group, assigned to the Department of Economic Development for administrative purposes, will submit a report to the governor by February 1, 2008.
“No Missourian should be left out of today’s technology based economy because of where they live,” Blunt said. “Expanding access to high-speed Internet in Missouri’s rural communities is an important step for economic development, agriculture and education. I have created the Rural High-Speed Internet Access Task Force to help ensure we are doing all we can to deliver current technology to the doorstep of every Missourian who wants it as quickly as possible.”
In order to make this idea work the task force will be composed of both government and representatives of private industry. Representatives will include Dan Ross, the chief information officer of the Office of Administration; Gregory A. Steinhoff, the director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development; and representatives from the Missouri Farm Bureau, MORE Net, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, the Missouri Association of Councils of Government, the Missouri Association of Counties, Missouri Municipal League, Missouri small business (2), a member of the education community, and the Missouri Technology Corporation. Of course, a representative each from the telecommunications and cable industries will be included. Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder will act as chair.
Blunt has directed the task force to:
- Assess the current level of high-speed Internet access available in Missouri;
- Identify barriers to deployment to underserved areas including economic, geographic, regulatory, and market barriers;
- Identify potential options to increase the deployment of high-speed Internet access in underserved communities;
- Review best practices in other states to increase high-speed Internet access; and
- Recommend statutory, regulatory, and policy changes needed to increase the availability of high-speed Internet services across the state.
Recent legislation regarding Missouri's cable television industry
Legislation that went into effect August 28, 2007 enacts a statewide cable franchise agreement to promote lower prices and expanded options through increased competition for Missouri cable consumers. The legislation streamlines the process for new cable providers to enter Missouri markets. Companies may now work directly with the Missouri Public Service Commission to enter several local markets at one time without going through each individual city as required by past state laws. Since the governor signed the legislation AT&T Missouri announced plans to invest $335 million over the next three years to bring cutting edge video and Internet services to Missourians and CenturyTel announced plans to add up to 15 new jobs and $15 million in capital investment in Columbia.