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By Troy Treasure
District 5 state representative Louis Riggs told the Herald on Friday, Jan. 29 he will continue to work toward upgrades in rural broadband.
While Riggs did not specifically use the word “aggressive” during discussion with the newspaper, he seemed to infer such an approach.
“I am drafting a bill to create a state-wide working group to address the lack of broadband once and for all,” Riggs said. “We have a lot of forward momentum, funding from federal sources that could be readily applied to broadband at the county level.
“It is time to reach a state-wide consensus as to how to bring rural Missouri into the 21st century with the rest of the state,” the Republican from Hannibal added.
Riggs was asked when he anticipated submitting the bill to House colleagues.
“Committees are starting to hear bills and I have requested a referral to the Economic Development Committee, of which I am Vice-Chair. My best guess is we would hear this within the next two to three weeks,” Riggs responded.
“I have not heard yet from anyone opposed to this legislation, which normally does not take long when lobbyists see something they do not like,” he added.
Riggs indicated similar legislation has been filed in the Senate more specific to municipalities. His legislation would include counties, as well.
“The federal dollars we anticipate in the next round of COVID relief will likely be distributed through the counties again,” Riggs said. “This bill would enable them to designate more funds to broadband deployment to get things rolling quicker.”
Riggs cited specifics he is planning.
“My legislation requiring the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to report exactly how many K-through-12 students do not have at least 25/3 access will provide data points that will help fill in the gaps in coverage maps, since FCC maps are outdated and ineffective,” he said.
“That hard data would also enable areas like Shelby County to push back against federal funds that do not go to our residents because the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) is using flawed methodology to make their determinations,” Riggs continued. “We know this anecdotally, but this is an extra layer of protection from a process that does not serve us particularly well.”
District 5 consists of Marion and Shelby counties as well as extreme northern Monroe.