Deadline for Missourians to weigh in on broadband coverage looms

April 15, 2024


missouri news network

JEFFERSON CITY — The Department of Economic Development’s office has set a deadline of April 23 for Missourians to submit challenges to the state’s broadband coverage map.

The challenge process will assist in the allocation of $1.7 billion in federal funding provided by the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program.

Missourians can challenge whether their addresses are underserved with broadband speeds below 100 megabits per second (mbps) for downloads and 20 mbps for uploads. These are the new required minimum speeds from the Federal Communications Commission for high-speed broadband as of March.

Missourians can also claim their addresses are unserved, meaning they receive broadband under 25 mbps for downloads and 3 mbps for uploads.

“We want anybody to fill out a challenge if possible. We want every home to be served, and this challenge process will allow us to be able to hear from the community,” said BJ Tanksley, director of Missouri’s Office of Broadband Development.

There have been over 5,000 challenges so far.

Internet providers will have 30 days to rebut any claims of underserved or unserved communities. The Office of Broadband Development will then identify which challenges are valid.

After the rebuttal process is complete, the office will submit a list of the challenges to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. This will outline how much money they want to budget for different internet providers based on proposals for BEAD money from the providers. The office will propose that money be allocated based on what communities the provider wants to serve, how many people will be served and how much it will cost.

The first round of awards will be announced in the fall on a rolling basis. A second round of applications will open in late fall to early winter, with funds to be awarded in spring 2025.

The Missourian previously reported that 15% of Missouri households are either unserved or underserved by an internet provider. The state hopes to have reliable internet connection accessible to every household by 2028.

“Internet providers have been notified of when we want to get this done. Obviously implementation isn’t always a perfect prediction but we expect to be able to hold to that goal,” Tanksley said.

Challenges to the map may be submitted after the April 23 deadline, but will not be considered for BEAD money allocation.