Governor Launches Rural Broadband Office: Governor Eric Greitens announced Tuesday that the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED), in partnership with the Missouri Department of Agriculture, has launched a new state initiative to expand broadband infrastructure in underserved and unserved rural areas of the state. The project’s first action will be to hire a manager for the office who will serve as a liaison to build partnerships between public and private stakeholders, and align efforts statewide to improve broadband access. The office will also act as a clearinghouse for any available state or federal grants that may become available. Luke Holtschneider, current manager of rural development for DED, will brief the MTIA board of directors on the new broadband initiative at its February 7 meeting in Jefferson City.
House Reviews Easement Legislation: The House General Laws Committee Tuesday reviewed the provisions of legislation that would legitimize the practice of placing fiber in easements originally granted for electric lines only. It would also affirm that electric co-ops can continue to offer broadband services to telecom carriers, cable companies, municipalities and other entities.
Although not mentioned in testimony to the committee, the bill, HB 1880, was introduced in response to class-action suits filed by land owners against three electric co-ops over the use of easements for fiber placement. The measure was supported by the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, the Northeast Rural Broadband Partnership, AARP, the Missouri Bankers Association, the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, the Missouri Soybean Association and the Missouri Corn Growers Association.
By a 9-3 vote, the committee approved the bill in executive session, and sent it for further consideration by a rules committee before it heads to the debate calendar in the House.
Senate Considers Expanding Corridor: The Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Affairs Committee Thursday reviewed legislation that would expand the utility corridor along state highways from six to twelve feet. The proposal, SB 598 , could make it easier, cheaper and quicker to install fiber in the MoDOT right-of-way. The bill was supported by MTIA and MTIA member-company Sellenriek Construction.
Goins Tapped as GM at Rock Port: Michael Goins has been appointed general manager of MTIA member-company Rock Port Telephone and its subsidiaries by the Rock Port board of directors. Goins has been with the company’s subsidiary, Midwest Data Center, for 15 years. He has held a number of positions with Midwest Data Center, including chief technology officer and general manager. Goins will be assuming the role from the current general manager Raymond Henagan, who will remain on as CEO.
“Telecom 101” Training Still Available: MTIA member-company Cellstream, Inc. is offering an eight-hour, self-paced online course designed to train new telecom employees in the basics of telecom and broadband. The course offering, available until January 31, is priced at $ 49 (regular price is $149). For more information , or to view the course outline, go to Telecom 101.
Industry Partner of the Week: MTIA member-company Elgin B. Robertson, Inc. is a manufacturer’s representative for a number of telecom equipment companies serving Missouri’s telecommunications carriers. For more information, contact Zach Frazier, regional sales director, at 214-333-2341; or visit them online at www.ebr.net.