• Focus groups included rural and urban voices from all regions of the state.
  • Screenshot from "Crucial Connectivity" Story Map.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – High-speed internet is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Most of us access the internet daily for health care, education, employment and social connection. However, more than 409,000 households and businesses in Missouri are underserved or completely unserved by broadband, according to the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

To better understand broadband needs and challenges across Missouri, the Community Innovation and Action Center at the University of Missouri–St. Louis conducted the Missouri Digital Inclusion Asset Mapping Focus Group Study.

The study hosted 20 focus groups with a total of 169 participants. A few central findings emerged:

  • Having either too many or too few internet service provider options can create barriers. Too many options can make choosing a provider confusing and difficult, whereas too few options can create cost barriers.
  • Missourians experience unreliable internet access, especially in rural areas. Participants recalled having to go to fast food restaurants, retail establishments, and parking lots to complete work or find an internet connection for their child’s homework.
  • Rural and low-income communities and communities with high levels of minorities experience more barriers.
  • When Missourians do have access to reliable broadband, they note it improves access to physical and mental health care, helped with everyday research, shopping and engaging civically.

To highlight the findings, the MU Extension Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems created an easy-to-read Story Map, which highlights selected quotes from the focus group participants alongside data to demonstrate barriers and opportunities for reliable high-speed internet in Missouri.

Explore the Story Map to learn more about the realities of broadband access across Missouri.

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