May 2, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Bonnie Prigge or Connie Willman, 573-265-2993
Broadband Regional Technology Planning Team defines strategic plan to increase broadband availability
ST. JAMES –Members of the Broadband Regional Technology Planning Team (RTPT) have outlined a strategic plan that defines the path for the Meramec Region to become part of Gov. Jay Nixon’s goal of increasing the state’s broadband availability to 95 percent by 2014.
The team gathered April 24 at the Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) and reviewed the draft plan, compiled by the state’s MOBroadbandNow planning team, which included the results of the Meramec Region’s broadband survey data. The draft plan, once finalized, will be rolled into the state plan.
Connie Ledeaux-Book, of Elon University, and Shannon White, University of Missouri-Columbia, both consultants for the MOBroadbandNow project, led the summit. Brian Rudolph, consultant with Geo Decisions, was also present for assistance.
First, Connie Willman, planning manager with MRPC, provided an overview of the planning process, which included a recap of broadband summit meetings, public survey results and the SWOC (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Challenges) analysis.
“This structure helped formulate a plan based on a regional basis,” Willman explained. “We will see where we are as a region, and this information will feed into the state plan.”
Next, Ledeaux-Book briefed the group on activity at the federal level, including the public safety narrowband initiative and the Connect 2 Complete project, a joint effort by providers and computer hardware manufacturers to improve the tools and training needed for broadband services.
RTPT members discussed highlights from the regional needs assessment findings.
Ledeaux-Book noted common themes presented in the report. For example, using broadband to support and grow small business is a top priority in the Meramec Region, and using broadband in support of public safety is seen as one of the greatest challenges, Ledeaux-Book said.
Broadband has been adopted for critical operations by every sector profiled, Ledeaux-Book explained. However, there is concern for the significant lack of access in rural areas, including those just outside population centers.
“There are those that don’t have broadband, and then there are those that don’t have enough of broadband,” Ledeaux-Book said. “The lack of competition shortens the list of available options in type, speed and capacity.”
The group reviewed several maps that focused on the locations and types of broadband available in the region and the challenges of receiving broadband in relation to topography.
Approximately 87 percent of the households surveyed within the Meramec Region reported having the Internet, which is comparable to 88 percent of the households surveyed in the state having the Internet, Ledeaux-Book said.
The study concluded the most prominent broadband service in the Meramec Region is DSL, with almost half of those with Internet, or 36 percent, using it.
Ledeaux-Book reviewed the list of adoption goals for broadband service in the region, which included device ownership, literacy, affordability, 95 percent availability, and expanding capacity. Each goal had its own set of objectives and possible action items outlined. While discussing action items, the group noted cost and implementation of possible projects to increase broadband services.
Team members emphasized the importance of providing service in sectors such as low-income, civic engagement, online education and workforce development.
Before dismissing, Ledeaux-Book had members prioritize goals, objectives and action items for the region.
After the strategic plan has been finalized, implementation activities should begin according to the approved timeline, Ledeaux-Book said. Any obstacles within the region should be passed on to the state.
The third broadband summit is scheduled for the fall and a six-month review is set to occur by the end of 2012. Annual reviews will occur until all benchmarks have been accomplished.
Connie Ledeaux-Book of Elon University, a consultant for MOBroadbandNow, asks team members for feedback regarding the goals and objectives established for increasing broadband within the region. Broadband Regional Technology Planning Team members from left are Bryan Steinman representing Legends Bank, Ron Smith representing City of Rolla Fire and Rescue, Jim Grebing representing the City of Hermann, and Ledeaux-Book.