Members analyze, prioritize regional results for state plan
ST. JAMES – In an effort to develop a statewide needs assessment for broadband Internet service in Missouri, members of the Broadband Regional Technology Planning Team reported data collected from surveys across the Meramec Region.
A total of 985 surveys were completed in the Meramec Region as part of the Missouri BroadbandNow project, including 470 residential surveys and 515 sector surveys.
Members of the planning team gathered Aug. 9 at Meramec Regional Planning Commission to review the results of the survey data.
Earlier this year, the state’s 19 Regional Planning Commissions began reaching out to area businesses and various constituent groups within their local communities as part of Gov. Jay Nixon’s goal of increasing broadband accessibility from its current level of 79 percent to 95 percent by 2014.
By surveying local communities, data was provided on broadband access and infrastructure to help meet the needs of citizens, businesses and government.
The Regional Technology Planning Team was formed in April to analyze the survey data as it begins developing a strategic plan for increasing broadband for the Meramec Region and state as a whole.
Shannon White, MoBroadbandNow team leader, presented the results of the residential study for broadband usage in the region.
Gene Oakley, deputy director with MoBroadbandNow, and Brian Rudoph, with GeoDecisions, Inc., were also present to assist in creating the statewide broadband assessment.
White noted 87 percent of regional respondents for the residential study said they have Internet access. The average age of respondents was 58.
Nationally, 87 percent of residents have computers but regionally, 90 percent of residents have computers, White said.
Cost and lack of high-speed connections were cited as reasons why many did not have the Internet, White explained.
Next, group members discussed the completed survey results for each sector including those for agriculture, energy, environment, healthcare, higher education, K-12 education, business/industry, library, local government, public safety, tourism, workforce development and economic development.
Brad Frazier reported on the business sector data, noting 103 survey responses with 96 percent of those respondents having Internet access.
The highest response rate came from finance, insurance and real estate fields, Frazier said.
Businesses primarily use the Internet for email, file sharing, website application, banking and research, Frazier said.
Businesses found dissatisfaction with service in areas such as speed, cost, availability of preferred services and reliability, according to the study.
The committee reviewed maps that displayed Missouri broadband availability and speed as of December 2010, as well as housing density. Areas lacking in coverage were noted.
Before dismissing, the group used the SWOC–Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Challenges–analysis overview to identify key issues, which were prioritized within each sector.
The state MoBroadbandNow team will begin drafting a report of the group’s data and priorities. White said the report for the region should be available within three to four weeks for the group to review and edit at its next meeting. The report will then be added to the final state report for broadband.
Members of the Regional Technology Planning Team prioritized broadband issues for the Meramec Region by using dots to cast a vote next to each issue of importance.