The Missouri Department of Economic Development named the person tabbed to lead the newly formed Missouri Broadband Development Office on Monday.
Former Lee's Summit Chamber of Commerce President Tim Arbeiter will become the state's broadband director and lead efforts to expand broadband access across the state. In January, the DED and Missouri Department of Agriculture announced the state's intent to hire a new broadband manager who could coordinate discussions between federal, state and regional economic leaders.
"Broadband access will open up so many new opportunities for farms, small businesses, health care providers, schools, and consumers in rural areas," Arbeiter said. "It truly has the potential to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Missourians."
Twenty percent of Missourians — or 1.25 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 the DED. Most of those residents lie in rural areas.
In a news release Agriculture Director Chris Chinn said he believes Arbeiter will expand broadband access across the state.
"Everywhere I go around the state, I hear about this issue," Chinn said in a news release. "It's one thing everyone agrees on, and it impacts a variety of people and industries.
In May, the Missouri General Assembly passed a bill that created the Missouri Rural Broadband Development Fund, which created a grant program for the DED to use to expand rural-broadband access.
Under the bill any grant awarded may not fund more than 50 percent of the total cost of a broadband service project and no single project may be awarded grants of more than $5 million. Former Gov. Eric Greitens signed the bill before he left office June 1.