Rural Mid-Missourians Struggles to Get Internet Service

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MONTGOMERY COUNTY - Some families living in rural areas of mid-Missouri said they have worked for years to get quality internet service in their homes. However, the cost and quality are not ideal for something many call a "necessity."

"When we first lived here we had satellite from HughesNet and it was like 80 bucks a month and they limited your bandwidth and during the day, the speed wasn't too terribly bad. At night it was horrible because there were so many people, you know people coming home after work," said Montgomery County resident Carolyn Gerding.

Internet service providers KOMU talked with said providing service to rural areas is not easy and can be costly. "Regular landline service, you have to be in a certain proximity to a digital switching station that they have and depending on the phone company most of those are located close to the municipalities," ALSAT Wireless Owner Allen Luelf said. ""Fiber optics are very expensive. You're not going to see companies laying fiber optics in rural areas to get customers Internet service. It just would not pay for itself."

The government's initiative to reach more rural areas with internet access (under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) does not currently reach all mid-Missouri areas. That lack of access is leading more families to another option: smaller wireless companies that post hot spots in rural locations. "We have quite a bit of support in the community. We've got a couple of local farmers that provide us space on grain legs that they have. We have a few municipalities that lease us space on their water towers," Luelf said.

However, until these companies grow to reach more rural areas or another solution is reached, some families in mid-Missouri will have limited options.

Boone county resident, Jennifer Baker, said she is using cell phone internet service that is expensive and has limits on usage. "We had dial up for years until about 2 years ago we finally got a 4G hot spot through AT&T but it's really expensive. But, the data, you use it up so fast," Baker said. "We can't download anything, you can't watch videos on it or anything."

Baker said she needs the internet for her online classes and other household necessities. "People think that people in the country don't need, you know, they come out to the sticks to trade buckskins for moonshine or something, but it's like 'no, we have careers, we have cars, we go into town. We need this," Baker said.