Legislative column

For several years, my legislative colleagues and I have advocated for a broadband expansion and faster internet speeds in the 33rd District and other rural areas of Missouri. High-speed internet access brings many benefits to rural communities, including economic development and better access to education and health care services, such as distance learning and telemedicine. I am pleased to say key communications providers have been listening and are doing their part to bring broadband to many of Missouri’s rural areas.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created the Connect America Fund (CAF) to facilitate the expansion of broadband infrastructure in high-cost, rural communities. Multiple carriers accepted statewide offers from the FCC to bring internet service with speeds of at least 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload to locations in FCC-designated, high-cost census blocks. In many cases download speeds will be faster.

I’m happy to report that several carriers accepted the FCC’s CAF statewide offers in Missouri to make broadband available to more than 200,000 locations in their service areas in rural parts of the state. Broadband providers have accepted the commitment to bring broadband services to more than 150,000 locations in Missouri service areas over the next six years.

The CAF funds make it possible for carriers to offer broadband in areas that would otherwise be cost prohibitive to serve. However, the FCC did not provide enough funding to serve all CAF eligible locations and it is simply not economically feasible to provide broadband access to all extremely high-cost areas across Missouri not currently covered by CAF.

By accepting the Connect America Fund monies, carriers committed to offer broadband in FCC-designated, high-cost areas within their local service territory. The FCC and the Missouri Public Service Commission will verify that these obligations are met.

By the end of 2017, CenturyLink expects to be in the final stages of construction, installation, and activation of new broadband equipment in high-cost areas in over 5,730 locations outside of Cabool, Marshfield, Mountain View and Thayer. Additional communities will be upgraded in the future.

Earlier this week the Senate gave initial approval to Senate Bill 34, which I sponsored and would crack down on some immigrants living in the country illegally. Senators voted 27-6 Thursday to pass the bill. It now moves to the House.

If it passes the Legislature and becomes law, previously deported immigrants who come back and commit assaults or other dangerous felonies would face three to 10 years in prison. I sponsored this legislation with a goal to crack down on criminals.

Mike Cunningham is a Republican member of the Missouri State Senate, representing District 33. Contact him at 573-751-1882 or www.senate.mo.gov/cunningham

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