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Business and the Economy

Fact-Finding Group to Investigate Affordable Broadband for West Plains

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The West Plains City Council has approved a fact-finding group to investigate the option of affordable citywide broadband. The group will determine if bringing affordable and reliable internet to West Plains’ users is within reach.

“Thursday night the council approved the city to start looking at the viability of providing internet as a city utility,” says Tom Stehn, city administrator.

The group will explore what kind of costs the city is looking at and if it can meet the expectations of customers.

Dependable internet would first be offered to serve large commercial users first, as West Plains strives to grow and attract businesses to the area. According to Stehn, some West Plains businesses are paying upwards of three times more than businesses in similar size cities.

“Missouri Department of Economics was down here in February, did a tour of the city, and basically met with a lot of different groups. The number one issue on every group was broadband,” Stehn said.

During its visit, the department said it would create a broadband summit to explore the issue further. The meeting has yet to be scheduled.

In addition to a lower cost internet for business owners, the group is also set to determine the possibility of including all potential users somewhere down the line. This sharing of the network may help to lower monthly costs if the researchers deem it viable for other users to buy into the broadband venture.

The group is to present its findings to the council by December.

Another option may also be available in the future. Currently the city of West Plains is working on building its own fiber network for city purposes. However the city says the four-mile network, strung from the West Plains Civic Center to City Hall, could potentially allow other users to connect to the city network, sharing in the monthly cost.

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