In parts of Kansas, it’s easy for people to go online whenever and wherever they want.
But for too many Kansans, high-speed internet access is anything but a mouse click away. The ongoing challenge of inadequate broadband connectivity is very real for Kansas families, businesses, schools, healthcare providers and others who depend on online access.
Through the Kansas Office of Broadband, Governor Laura Kelly’s administration is working to close this digital divide. Hundreds of millions of dollars in funding made possible by the bipartisan, federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is coming to Kansas to improve home and public broadband access, local technology training, digital device access and other support programs.
When it comes to truly connecting all Kansans, infrastructure improvements alone aren’t enough. Equipment and skills training also are paramount to get all Kansans connected, regardless of their zip code.
That’s why the Office of Broadband is listening to Kansans statewide, and particularly those too often underserved: low-income households, aging populations, people with disabilities or language barriers, racial and ethnic minorities, rural inhabitants, incarcerated individuals and veterans.
The effort started with the Kansas Broadband Summit in January in Wichita, where discussion centered on how the Office of Broadband Development and partners statewide should effectively use federal and state funding to grow high-speed internet deployment and use.
And now, the Kansas Broadband Roadshow is traveling throughout the state seeking input in places where connectivity falls short. Not surprisingly, Roadshow conversations so far have included troubling first-person accounts of challenges with internet access, as well as appreciation for interest in fixing the problem. For example:
- In Parsons, a local resident spends afternoons in her car in the local library parking lot for her remote-work job, since she can’t access the internet at home.
- An ag producer outside of Americus must drive into town to use the internet at a local café because she can’t use her precision ag- and data-driven digital equipment on the farm. Without quick access to the markets, Kansas producers run the risk of losing money.
- In Peabody, a Roadshow participant said the state’s efforts to improve connectivity, and willingness to listen to people across Kansas restored his faith in humanity.
A full list of scheduled Roadshow sessions with dates and locations is available here. Input gathered on the following topics will be used in creating a Kansas-specific pathway of strategic plans:
- Internet quality and connectivity in your neighborhood
- Internet access and availability
- Public internet access
- Inclusive design that doesn’t discriminate against users based on age, ability and other circumstances
- Internet speeds
- Online safety and privacy
- Digital skills training
- Digital devices
The Kansas Broadband Roadshow also is providing an opportunity to outline new initiatives.
Kansas recently became the first state to receive U.S. Treasury Digital Connectivity Technology funds to provide devices and digital skills training to Kansans across the state.
Governor Kelly led the way in calling for a national program that will include free computers and free public Wi-Fi to underserved Kansans — a critical step toward the Governor’s goal of getting every Kansan who wants access connected by 2030.
Another big step came recently in funding to help lower-income families pay for high-speed internet. The federal Affordable Connectivity Program will give eligible households a monthly discount of up to $30 per month (up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands) and a one-time $100 discount toward a laptop, desktop computer or tablet.
Digital connectivity isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity to ensure outstanding quality of life. To be part of Kansas’ bold effort to build a better digital future for all, please participate in a Kansas Broadband Roadshow event near you.
For anyone who needs accommodations to participate in the Kansas Broadband Roadshow, please contact Corinthian Kelly at 316.978.6530, or [email protected]). For broadband and other service providers, please click here.
To learn more about Kansas’ award-winning economic development programs, please visit the Kansas Department of Commerce website at kansascommerce.gov/news.