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Broadband is the lifeblood of the modern world. Access to high-speed internet is essential for business, education, and personal communication. As the world around us becomes more and more technologically driven it is vital that we ensure that all, whether urban or rural, have the ability to access reliable, affordable broadband internet.
Currently, rural residents have little to no ability to access broadband internet. In many cases, if an individual does have access, it is a slower version of broadband that in essence is no faster than dial-up. One of the greatest hindrances to bringing broadband internet to rural Missouri is the lack of infrastructure. It simply is not cost effective for telecommunications company to spend the time and money to construct the network of poles and fiber optic cables over miles and miles of countryside, but what if the company could use preexisting poles?
House Bill 1361, sponsored by Representative Pollock, allows telecommunications companies or rural electrical cooperatives to attach, maintain, and operate their equipment on another’s pole. Essentially, this piece of legislation would facilitate the deployment of broadband communications as well as electrical smart grid technologies in rural areas of the state. Thus ensuring that rural residents have the same opportunities as those living in more urban areas.
Under the provisions in HB 1361, no attachments can be added without a written agreement between the pole owner and the party interested in placing the attachment on the pole. Moreover, the pole owner is entitled to a reasonable pole attachment fee as well as reimbursements for any damages or modification costs incurred by the pole owner. The current language also includes protection for the property owner where poles are located, ensuring that the bill shall not be construed to deny the property owner reasonable compensation for increased interference or decrease in fair market value resulting from a pole attachment.
In many ways, HB 1316 has been a collaborative effort by many parties trying to find a way to increase the availability of high-speed internet access for all Missourians. Missouri Farm Bureau and the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives have both been strong advocates for this important piece of legislation that now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Missouri is at a crucial juncture. Just as preceding generations had to look to the future to see the importance of running power lines and phone lines; we now need to have the same inventive thinking to ensure that all Missourians are given a fair stake in the game. Just because an individual lives in a rural area should not prohibit them from the ability to communicate with friends and family via Skype, transact business with people around the world, or to take an online class.
For more information about the HB 1361 mentioned above or about any others that have been introduced please visit the House of Representatives website, www. house.mo.gov. As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Missouri House of Representatives.