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Kansas awarded nearly $1 million from USDA to assist with rural digital divide

Feb 21, 2024

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TOPEKA – The Kansas Office of Broadband Development (KOBD) has been awarded nearly $1 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service through its new Broadband Technical Assistance (BTA) grant program. The $997,000 grant will fund pre-engineering design studies in six rural Kansas counties to help reduce costs and identify avoidable barriers as broadband is deployed there.

“Access to broadband is crucial for the economic growth of our rural communities,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “This initiative demonstrates my administration’s commitment to expanding quality, affordable high-speed internet and creating opportunities for Kansans in every county of the state.”

The high cost of bringing broadband infrastructure to rural Kansas has long been a challenge to internet service providers. The distances, coupled with unique topographical challenges such as bedrock formations, have made broadband deployment economically unfeasible despite existing state and federal funding initiatives.

“KOBD’s plan aligns with our broader vision for economic development,” Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Commerce David Toland said. “By identifying and removing barriers, we can continue to empower rural communities to utilize resources for sustainable solutions.”

The BTA grant will produce plans to address broadband deployment hurdles in six selected counties: Gove, Kearny, Kiowa, Linn, Rawlins and Wilson. These counties, situated far from urban centers, face significant challenges in achieving reliable and affordable broadband services. To develop a roadmap for future broadband deployment, the studies will analyze population density, topography, and various census data.

KOBD, along with Rural Utility Service staff, will then partner with local governments to understand and analyze the results of these studies, develop mitigation strategies, and identify next steps for effective broadband deployment, including use of federal and state funding sources.

“High-speed internet and reliable infrastructure will make it possible for rural Kansans to live and work in the communities they love,” USDA Kansas State Director for Rural Development Christy Davis said.

“The digital divide is especially persistent in highly rural counties,” Broadband Director Jade Piros de Carvalho said. “This grant will assist with addressing some of the concerns providers face in bringing high-speed internet to sparsely populated areas of the state.”

KOBD’s commitment to partnering with local communities, pre-engineering design consultants and federal agencies aligns with the shared vison to use a collaborative approach to finding solutions for rural broadband challenges. This initiative is one step toward creating a more connected and economically empowered Kansas.


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