Part of federal infrastructure deal will expand broadband internet access across Missouri, Arkansas

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – Part of the federal infrastructure deal President Joe Biden signed into law on Monday will include funding that will help expand broadband internet access across Missouri and Arkansas.

The hard-fought $1 trillion infrastructure deal outlines a wide variety of projects, including funding to improve roads, bridges, airports, and clean water. The new law also aims to expand internet access so that all Americans can stay connected to reliable high-speed internet to do their jobs, participate in school learning, and healthcare.

“So my message to the American people is this, America is moving again and your life is going to change for the better,” President Biden said on Monday.

Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Missouri will receive at least $100 million to help provide broadband coverage across the state, including providing access to the at least 330,000 Missourians who currently do not have access to it. A little more than 1.6 million Missourians, or 26% of the state population, will also be eligible for the Affordability Connectivity Benefit, which will help low-income families afford internet access.

”I can speak to this one personally, because I live in rural Greene County, on the north part of the county, and we don’t have broadband access,” said Shannon McMurtrey, an Asst. Professor of Management Information Systems at Drury University in Springfield. “At my house, I can’t get fiber.”

McMurtrey is a professor at Drury who specializes in just about everything cyber. He said this broadband expansion will be huge for many rural Missourians, especially following the pandemic.

”It really does change what you’re able to do from your home when you have that kind of broadband access,” he said. “The pandemic obviously accelerated work from home for a lot of organizations and the broadband weakspots began to pop up immediately. So we had kids that were having to go to McDonald’s and use Wi-Fi so they could complete their schoolwork.”

On top of internet access, the infrastructure plan will also focus on cyber security.

”Certainly cyber attacks are a tremendously important vital current issue for all businesses of all shapes and sizes,” McMurtrey said. ”The director of the National Security Agency was speaking at a conference I was at a couple of years ago. And he said, there’s two types of companies in the world, those that have been hacked and know it, and those that have been hacked and don’t know it yet.”

Missouri will get $19 million to protect against cyberattacks, which McMurtrey said is funding that will help combat growing issues in an increasingly technology-driven world.

”As far as identifying threats and protecting from those, detecting when attackers are inside their network, responding and recovering after an attack, this sort of funding can be very helpful on every one of those levels,” he said.

McMurtrey said it could also be a chance for the state to do a risk assessment.

“It will allow them to do a risk assessment and just try to identify where our biggest vulnerabilities are, at the state level, identify what kind of security issues may be present,” he said.

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