News from MPANewsBook FCC authorizes $22 million for broadband in rural Missouri counties

May 21, 2019

By Caitlyn Rosen

Missouri News Network

Missourians living in rural areas have dealt with a lack of broadband access at disproportionate levels. Funding authorized Tuesday from the Federal Communications Commission could peck away at the problem.

The FCC authorized $22.4 million over the next decade to expand broadband access to 13 counties and 7,400 rural Missouri homes and businesses without internet access, according to an FCC news release.

[Read the Missourian’s coverage of rural broadband access. .These counties include Andrew, Buchanan, Cape Girardeau, Clay, Clinton, DeKalb, Gentry, Mississippi, New Madrid, Nodaway, Platte, Scott and Stoddard. United Services Inc. and GoSEMO Inc. are the two rural electric cooperative companies authorized for this funding.

Wisper ISP Inc., an Illinois-based internet provider, won a similar auction in August. Over the next decade, it is set to receive over $176 million from the FCC’s Connect America Fund.

This funding is expected to provide broadband to 65 Missouri counties. Wisper will focus on providing access to Franklin, Madison and Perry counties, according to previous Missourian reporting.

The funding authorized Tuesday is part of a greater FCC effort to close the digital divide in America, according to the news release. In the coming months, the FCC will be authorizing additional funding waves as applications from auction-winners are approved.

Efforts to change Clean Missouri halted in final week of session

By Tom Coulter

Missouri News Network

JEFFERSON CITY —Two pieces of legislation that would have changed the Clean Missouri amendment will not make it to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk this year.

Amendment 1, also known as Clean Missouri, won approval from 62 percent of voters in November. Among other changes within the amendment, Clean Missouri overhauls the state’s redistricting process by putting a nonpartisan state demographer in charge of drawing the legislative districts.

A proposal from Rep. Dean Plocher, R-St. Louis, would instead keep the current redistricting process, in which separate House and Senate committees decide how to draw district lines.

Under the proposal, the map-drawing question would be put back on the ballot in the 2020 election. Proponents say citizens did not know what they were voting for last year.

Plocher’s proposal, which won approval in the House last month, must make it out of the Senate Fiscal Oversight committee before it can be discussed on the floor. However, the committee voted against passing the proposal by a 2-2 vote Monday morning.

Sen. Mike Cunningham, R-Rogersville, who chairs the committee, declined to comment Monday afternoon.

Another effort that would have weakened another part of Clean Missouri ran out of steam.

Clean Missouri makes legislative records and proceedings subject to the state’s open records law, known as the Sunshine Law. The amendment, which was added when the House approved the bill in February, would keep lawmakers’ records from being public if they relate to “the deliberative decision-making process” of the legislature. Critics have said the amendment would keep a wide range of records out of public view.

Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, sponsored the original bill, which extends some of the ethics restrictions included in Clean Missouri to local government officials. He conceded early in the week that it was unlikely the Senate will vote on the bill, or the Sunshine Law amendment, before the session concludes Friday.

“The Senate has always had less appetite for ethics bill than the House unfortunately,” Dogan said. “This is especially frustrating because the voters spoke with Clean Missouri and said they wanted to have gifts limits, lobbyists limits and revolving-door limits, and none of those three things applies to local government officials.”

Dogan said he plans to file the same legislation next year without the amendment.