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Dugger Report 4.12.12

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.

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