Gov. Mike Parson (AP)

JEFFERSON CITY — Nearly $50 million will be allocated to support broadband expansion across Missouri, earmarked for telehealth and education. Gov. Mike Parson also signed House Bill 1768, which expands the state’s existing Missouri Broadband Grant Program until 2027.

Currently, an estimated 300,000 Missouri households, 195,000 K-12 students and 54,000 businesses and farms lack access to high speed internet.

The expansion includes several new initiatives.

  • Emergency Broadband Investment:  Allocating $20 million to establish a reimbursement program for broadband providers. It will assist providers with construction costs for new broadband expansion to households with students or vulnerable populations. The governor hopes by November 2020, this program would create 10,000 new connections in unserved and underserved areas of the state.
  • Telehealth: $5.25 million will support connectivity for telehealth services for vulnerable populations. In partnership with Missouri Telehealth Network, located at University of Missouri – Columbia’s School of Medicine, more than 12,500 hotspots will be secured for use by the Federally Qualified Health Centers and the Community Mental Health Centers.
  • Libraries: The Office of the State Librarian within the Secretary of State’s office to deploy $2.5 million to implement and administer a grant program for Missouri’s libraries to access resources for hotspots and Wi-Fi enabled devices to support telehealth and students of higher education.
  • K-12 Distance Learning: The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education given $10 million of the Coronavirus Relief Fund to Local Education Agencies to seek reimbursement for eligible costs to increase student connectivity.
  • Higher Education Distance Learning: $10 million of the Coronavirus Relief Fund to public institutions to upgrade campus broadband networks, offer students access to Wi-Fi enabled devices or hotspots, and enhance learning management systems.
  • Broadband Technical Assistance Request: Nearly $615,000 in grant support from the Economic Development Administration to support a pilot project for Broadband Modeling and Engineering Feasibility Plans for up to 24 counties or eight regional clusters.