Bringing Broadband One Step Closer to Rural Missouri

UMKC students win System-wide competition to design a possible public-private partnership internet utility
winning student team poses after the competition

A team of University of Missouri-Kansas City students took first place in a UM System competition to design a public-private partnership plan to extend broadband internet service to a five-county region in northwestern Missouri.

The competition was open to students at all four UM System universities. The competing teams combined undergraduate and graduate students from an array of majors and disciplines, including Law, Computer Science, Business and Engineering. The students used surveys, research, data and information from local stakeholders to develop proposals to use private-public partnership business models to create affordable, feasible and economically sustainable plans to bring broadband service to Atchison, Gentry, Holt, Nodaway and Worth counties in Missouri.

The team of Daniel Foose, UMKC Law; Sofia Hadley, UMKC Law; and John Welch, UMKC School of Science and Engineering won the top prize of $3,000 for a plan that suggested consideration of a fiber optic system built on top of existing power utility infrastructure, along with other components regarding broadband infrastructure, access and adoption and potential sources of funding.

Foose, who earned his undergraduate degree from Northwest Missouri State University, was intrigued by the idea of bringing broadband coverage to the underserved northwest counties.

“I sort of saw it as a way to give a little bit back to a community that had done so much to help shape me into who I am today,” he said.

The H&R Block Foundation donated a total of $5,000 in prize money for the competition.

The second-place team included:

  • Ankit Agarwal, Missouri University of Science and Technology Engineering Management
  • Alasia Buschkopf, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Computer Science
  • Clifton Holly, UMKC Law
  • Tara Ogoti, UMKC Science and Engineering

Third place:

  • Chandrashekar Akkenapally, S&T Computer Science
  • Anna Heetmann, UMKC Law
  • Emilie Moyer, UMKC Bloch School of Management
  • Tarun Sai Naregudam, S&T Computer Science
  • Oluwatosin Waleola, S&T Information Science and Technology.

The presentation event in the competition took place Aug. 20 in Maryville.

The competition was initiated by Anthony Luppino, Rubey M. Hulen Professor of Law and Director of Entrepreneurship Programs at the UMKC School of Law, and a member of the UM System Broadband Initiative Steering Committee. That steering committee evolved from a 2019 proposal for a UM System-wide broadband initiative put together by Luppino;  Marcus McCarty, UMKC adjunct law faculty; and Casey Canfield, an engineering professor at S&T. The proposal was adopted at the System level and refined, further developed and implemented by faculty and staff from all four System universities, KCSourceLink, MU Extension and UM System Engagement and Outreach.

The student competition was the latest addition to the UM System Broadband Initiative, which also includes the Digitally Connected Community Guide.

“It occurred to me that the concept of the Regnier Venture Creation Challenge (an entrepreneurship competition run by the Bloch School) could be applied to broadband access challenges,”Luppino said.  “Instead of independent ventures, the student teams would be developing  concepts for public-private partnerships.”

He called the competition a great example of “the power of multidisciplinary and inter-institutional collaborations,” with contributing organizations providing an opportunity for students to “demonstrate their knowledge, talents, and teamwork in a service-learning experience focused on a critically important subject.”

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