From my home just west of Jefferson City, Mo., I can connect to the world through a high-speed Internet service available to me and my neighbors. I can search for the latest news on electric cooperatives, stay in touch with friends on Facebook, find out how the Cardinals and Royals did last night or stream movies or other entertainment from my laptop.
Just a few minutes from my home, however, none of this is possible. That’s because a huge digital divide exists between rural people and their urban counterparts. And this situation is emerging as one of the key problems for rural people.
Recently, a Rural Missouri staff member had a conversation with a businesswoman from the Ozarks whose business was struggling due to a lack of Internet service of any kind. Hosting an online store was not a possibility for her. In fact, she had to drive to the nearest town just to check email. She wanted to know if her electric cooperative could do something to bring access to her part of the state.
I have talked to farmers and other members who own small businesses who know high-speed Internet service could make a huge difference to the success of their businesses.
In many parts of Missouri, rural telecom companies have done an excellent job of bringing high-speed Internet service to the countryside. But there are still many places in rural Missouri where Internet service is slow, unreliable or non-existent.