Rural Access to Industry: Barriers from the Infrastructure Planning Front Lines

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As part of this research initiative, we conducted a qualitative analysis of 11 semi-structured interviews with the planning community in Missouri to identify what barriers they recognize for the deployment of rural broadband in Missouri. Participants reported that the return on investment and the financing of rural broadband projects constitute the main barriers. Technology was the most frequently discussed barrier in the literature, but the Regional Planning Commissions identified technology as the least significant barrier to rural broadband infrastructure deployment. They understand the required technology is available, but paying for it is the main challenge. The Regional Planning Commissions had had limited involvement in the planning of rural broadband infrastructure as most investment decisions regarding rural broadband infrastructure have been made by private internet service providers. Several Regional Planning Commissions expressed a lack of confidence in managing broadband projects due to their limited experience. On the other hand, they are looking forward to supporting an anticipated statewide planning initiative to be promoted by the Missouri Office of Broadband Development.