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Increasing Rural Broadband Access

June 28, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. - As rural communities struggle to create economic development and new jobs in a difficult economic climate, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill today hosted Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski and approximately 100 Missouri leaders in a discussion about the need to expand broadband access in rural parts of Missouri and how the federal government can help.

"High-speed internet means real jobs, economic growth for small businesses, and great improvements in healthcare, public safety, and education. It is essential that we focus investment on access to this innovation, especially in rural Missouri," McCaskill said following the forum today in Troy, MO.

The forum focused on the economic development opportunities created by broadband access when rural communities can easily and quickly connect to other areas of the country. U.S. businesses, both large and small, depend on broadband services to run various facets of their businesses, including tracking inventory, monitoring consumer relations, and forecasting product sales. Studies show that communities in which broadband is widely available experience greater growth in employment, greater increases in the overall number of businesses, and a greater number of businesses in the information technology sectors. For each percentage of broadband adoption across the country, thousands of private sector jobs are added to the economy.

In a world where businesses are increasingly relying on the Internet to bring new levels of efficiency and creativity to their business models, some areas of the United States are falling behind due to unavailability of high-speed Internet. In 32 counties in Missouri, more than 50 percent of households do not have high-speed broadband (4 mbps broadband ability).

FCC Chairman Genachowski, who is leading the federal government's broadband initiatives, attended the meeting at McCaskill's invitation. Also in attendance were key local leaders for whom broadband access is particularly important, including members of the education, emergency response and economic development communities. McCaskill invited all the Missouri organizations that have applied for federal broadband grants to assist in expanding access, and many participated in the conversation.

In addition to the economic benefits, rural broadband access will also significantly help improve health care services in areas with low populations by promoting telemedicine technology, which allows doctors to communicate with patients using video-conferencing tools. Broadband also allows schools and libraries to utilize technologies that aren't available with dial-up Internet, and helps with emergency response.

McCaskill has long been committed to making broadband internet access available to all Missourians by helping provide the necessary resources. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, she has fought to reform the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Broadband Loan and Loan Guarantee Program to better serve Missourians, and worked to include the expansion of broadband in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The bill allocated $7.2 billion to develop and expand broadband, most of which will be distributed and utilized in 2010.

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