FCC Chair Visits Ozark, Talks Digital Divide

Posted on September 20, 2017 23:29 pm CDT

By Jenifer Abreu Ozarks First


OZARKS, Mo. -- The chairman of the FCC was in Ozark Wednesday to discuss internet access in rural areas. The Commission's goal is to bridge the digital gap between rural and urban communities in Missouri.

Chairman Ajit Pai is on a four-state tour, visiting Indiana, Illinois, Kansas as well as Missouri. He met up with U.S. Representative Billy Long and other technology leaders in the area. 

 "It was nice to hear firsthand about how important it is to make sure digital infrastructure gets pushed out as far as possible into the countryside," Pai said. 

Pai says the agency has already begun extending digital opportunity in rural communities.

 "Just as in urban areas, if you want to start a business, if you want to educate your kids, if you want to get high-quality healthcare, all these things increasingly depend on access to the internet," he said.  

Through federal funding, Doug Galloway, director of Governmental Affairs for Century Link, says 61,000 locations in Missouri will have broadband access for the first time.  

"Because it was a high cost, uneconomic area to serve, but with the funding opportunities from the Connect America program, they now have the opportunity to get that funding for those services," he said. 

Galloway says it's about getting families up to speed, not just online. 

"It will be quicker than it was before, you are going to have more opportunities to download videos and watch videos, children are going to be able to do their homework at home much easier," Galloway said. "There will be some economic opportunities as well such as applying for jobs, working from home." 

Bridging the digital divide, Pai says, is a professional goal, but also a personal one. 

"I grew up in this part of the country, in Southeast Kansas, so I appreciate firsthand how important it is that folks in rural areas have the access that folks in big cities take for granted," Pai said. 

Part of his plan also includes modernizing regulations. 

"To make sure that every single company, whether it's a small electric co-op up to the big companies, have an incentive to invest in places like this," he said. "And I'm hopeful that in years to come we are going to see that divide start to close." 


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