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Congressman Cleaver to Host Rural-Urban Broadband Digital Divide Discussion with FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks

Feb 26, 2019
Press Release

(Kansas City, MO) - Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II will host a Q&A meeting Friday, March 1, 2019, to discuss the rural and urban broadband digital divide. Joining Congressman Cleaver for this discussion is the newly appointed Federal Communications Commissioner and Kansas City native, Geoffrey Starks. This meeting will be open to the public.

“The Digital Divide is an issue that both urban and rural residents, businesses and local governments are dealing with. Lower broadband width and slower internet speed are leaving these communities at an economic disadvantage that is awfully difficult to overcome in the digital world of the 21st century. The FCC has made this broadband issue a priority, like myself, and I want to thank Commissioner Starks for coming out to listen to the people,” said Congressman Cleaver.

Commissioner Starks was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate on January 2, 2019, to serve on the Federal Communications Commission and was sworn into office on January 30, 2019. He is the first Kansas Citian to serve as a Commissioner of the FCC.

“Technology and telecommunications have come to shape our modern world. As a Commissioner, I always focus on how we make Americans’ lives better – and for me, that starts with the home. That’s why I’m excited to return to my hometown with Rep. Cleaver and hear from our neighbors about the real-world impact of the digital divide. Whether you live in Kansas City or Blue Springs, too many Missourians lack access to the high-quality, affordable internet service that has become a necessity in today’s world. I’m looking forward to listening and learning —and hearing more about what the FCC should do to help folks dealing with the significant challenges of being disconnected,” said Commissioner Starks.

State and local government leadership agencies have been invited to join the discussion, including the Missouri Governor’s office. The purpose of the meeting is to address complexities and find solutions to rural and urban broadband issues.

As technology continues to advance, businesses schools, hospitals and municipalities must be able to adapt and need increased broadband speed to do so. Most rural areas lack broadband access and many urban areas are underserved. This is an opportunity for the public to voice their concerns.

Funding for a $550 million rural broadband expansion pilot program was included in the recently passed Continuing Resolution which Congressman Cleaver supported.

The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), along with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) will ensure that these broadband loans and grants, are targeted to areas that are currently underserved.

Below are the details of the meeting.

WHEN: Friday, March 1, 2019 at 10:30 a.m. CST

WHERE: Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center, 1401 NW Park Road, Blue Springs, MO 64015

WHO: Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO), FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, State & Local Agencies

Congressman Cleaver has been a staunch advocate for improving broadband in rural areas, and is a member of the Rural Broadband Caucus. In May of last year, he held a USDA Rural Utilities Service Broadband Workshop in his district, in Higginsville, Missouri. This workshop highlighted ways for municipalities and companies to apply for grants to help improve their broadband services. In the previous Congress, Cleaver signed on to a bipartisan letter encouraging President Trump to include investments in rural broadband in future infrastructure proposal packages.

Congressman Cleaver also voted in favor of the 2018 Farm Bill. Among other rural developments within the bill, it authorizes $350 million per year for new broadband infrastructure.

Emanuel Cleaver, II is the U.S. Representative for Missouri’s Fifth Congressional District, which includes Kansas City, Independence, Lee’s Summit, Raytown, Grandview, Sugar Creek, Blue Springs, Grain Valley, Oak Grove, North Kansas City, Gladstone, Claycomo, and all of Ray, Lafayette, and Saline Counties. He is a member of the exclusive House Financial Services Committee, the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance, and also a Senior Whip of the Democratic Caucus. For more information, please contact Heather Frierson at 816-842-4545 A high-resolution photo of Congressman Cleaver is available here.