The Missouri Department of Economic Development will hire a rural broadband manager to lead efforts to expand internet access in the state.
The new manager will coordinate discussions between federal, state and regional economic leaders during efforts to expand rural broadband access across the state. Gov. Eric Greitens, along with the DED and the Missouri Department of Agriculture, announced the creation of the position Tuesday as part of a new initiative to expand rural broadband access in Missouri.
Twenty percent of Missourians — or 1.5 million Missourians — lack access to internet service with a download speed of at least 25 megabits per second and an upload speed of at least 3 megabits per second, according to news release from Greitens' office. Most of those residents live in rural areas.
"In today's digital age, access to the internet is a necessity for growth in almost any industry," Rob Dixon, acting DED director, said in a news release. "This will help ensure that all of Missouri will have the infrastructure needed to support job creation."
Connecting rural Missourians to faster internet will enhance their quality of life, Chris Chinn, director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, said in the news release.
"It means additional advancements, better education (and) more comprehensive health care services, all of which are necessary to incentivize retention and growth," Chinn said.
Once hired, the new position will begin the goal of expanding broadband internet to unserved parts of Missouri. Among other tasks, the person will work with the Missouri Public Service Commission on broadband issues, research nationwide trends about broadband, and work with federal agencies like the Federal Communications Commission to expand broadband access. The person will also develop policy, rules and legislation to support rural broadband services, according to a job posting on the DED's website.
Qualifications include a bachelor's degree in "applicable areas" and four or more years in related areas. Experience in broadband is also helpful.
In April, Greitens announced a plan to release $45 million in state, federal and private money to expand broadband access to rural schools by improving internet infrastructure. At the time, Greitens' office said more than 100 Missouri school districts lacked access to quality internet service because of the lack of infrastructure.