For immediate release
Missouri’s Office of Broadband Development, MRPC to host virtual call on broadband availability/FCC Challenge on Dec. 19
ST. JAMES— Missouri’s Office of Broadband Development (OBD) in collaboration with Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) will host a virtual video call on the topic of broadband availability Dec. 19, 2022, at 3:00 p.m. Citizens, public officials and other leaders will have an opportunity to hear about how they can help improve recently released maps showing broadband availability specific to the Meramec Region. Please contact Linda Carroll at MRPC for the meeting link, by phone at 573-265-2993 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Newly created Federal Communications Commission (FCC) maps will determine what share of $42.45 billion in federal broadband funding will come to the state of Missouri through the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, a component of the infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act. The map will identify what locations in the state qualify for help using those funds.
To see the FCC map, visit broadbandmap.fcc.gov.
At the meeting, OBD staff will review what the map shows about the region and introduce attendees to the FCC’s challenge process, which allows individuals and institutions to submit corrections to the map.
By establishing that a given location does not have the level of service listed on the map, the challenge process can open that location up to future funding opportunities and increase Missouri’s share of BEAD funding. Initial estimates indicate that each additional challenge that successfully identifies a new unserved location could be an additional $5,000 of broadband infrastructure funding to the state.
“Lack of access to broadband prevents many Missourians from taking advantage of the digital economy,” OBD Director BJ Tanksley said. “To bridge the digital divide across the state of Missouri, we need to document who in Missouri doesn’t have broadband coverage.”
The National Telecommunications Information Agency, the federal agency responsible for the BEAD program, has indicated that all challenges filed by Jan. 13 will be considered in its decision about how much BEAD funding each state receives. Challenges filed after that date are still important in order to ensure that no locations are missed when the time comes to fund projects using the BEAD allocation.
In addition to encouraging individuals to file challenges, OBD staff will review how local institutions can promote participation in the challenge process and to work with local officials to identify data sources that could be used for larger-scale challenges.
Previous maps used for federal broadband programs classified locations as served, underserved or unserved based on whether any location in their census block received service. This meant that many locations were treated as “served” and excluded from public broadband funding because someone in their area had access. The new maps list the service the FCC believes is available at every location in the country that might be in the market for mass-market broadband – giving a more accurate view of who lacks access to this important economic resource.
This event is only one component of extensive technical assistance OBD plans to offer to individuals, local governments, and other groups interested in participating in the challenge process. On Friday, Dec. 16, at 1 p.m. OBD will hold a statewide call for anyone interested in hearing more about how they can participate in the challenge process. The Dec. 19 Webex meeting is specific to the Meramec Region.
OBD is partnering with University of Missouri Extension to provide in-person technical support for anyone interested in filing challenges at their county offices across the state. Residents should contact their local extension office for details. The Office of Broadband Development will also answer questions about the challenge process over the phone at 573-526-1028 or by email at email@example.com.
Beginning in 2023, Missouri will use BEAD funding to launch its Connecting All Missourians initiative, which aims to provide high-quality broadband internet to every home and business in the state.
MRPC is assisting the OBD with outreach and community engagement in the Meramec Region.
Formed in 1969, MRPC is a voluntary council of governments serving Crawford, Dent, Gasconade, Maries, Osage, Phelps, Pulaski and Washington counties and their respective cities. Steve Vogt, representing the city of Belle, serves as chairman of the board. A professional staff of 36 offers technical assistance and services, such as grant preparation and administration, housing assistance, transportation planning, environmental planning, ordinance codification, business loans and other services to member communities.
To keep up with the latest MRPC news and events, visit the MRPC website at www.meramecregion.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/meramecregion/.