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Kansas Officials Directing $451 million at Closing Gaps in State’s High-speed Internet

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By Tim Carpenter, Kansas Reflector

 

TOPEKA, Kan. — Injection of $451 million in federal funding offered Kansas a unique opportunity to improve access to high-speed internet essential to business, education, health care and communication services, state and federal officials said.

The administration of Gov. Laura Kelly said new investment in broadband infrastructure would be linked to a strategic plan drawn from mapping of internet speed tests and connectivity. Data on broadband shortcomings is being collected by the Kansas Office of Broadband Development with a voluntary survey at broadbandks.com.

“This historic investment gives Kansas the greatest opportunity to date to end the digital divide,” said Jade Piros de Carvalho, the state broadband director.

Lt. Gov. David Toland, secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce, said the funding would allow Kansas to “make significant strides in connecting underserved areas and empowering businesses, students, and residents with the technology they need to prosper.”

The $42.4 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program was created under the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The legislation aimed at addressing U.S. regions with insufficient broadband was opposed by all five Republican members of the Kansas congressional delegation.

It was backed by Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, who said the investment was a huge step forward in closing the digital gap and improve lives of Kansas families.

“Kansas’ current broadband system does not operate at the needed level for folks across our state to efficiently access crucial resources such as employment opportunities, virtual learning and health care,” Davids said.

In December, Kansas was awarded its first round of broadband infrastructure money to develop a five-year action plan, identify unserved and underserved locations and build capacity at the Kansas Office of Broadband Development.

Infusion of additional federal aid in the years ahead could improve Kansas’ standing among states for broadband access. A recent study indicated Kansas ranked last in the United States in terms of average download speed and significantly trailed speeds available to consumers in Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Missouri.

“My administration is committed to ensuring every Kansan, regardless of their zip code, has access to fast and reliable internet connectivity, bringing additional economic growth, educational opportunities and telehealth services,” Kelly said.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, said it was important to provide federal oversight of the $451 million to be deployed to Kansas for broadband development. He worked with state and federal officials from Kansas to update broadband maps to identify more than 25,000 additional underserved locations in Kansas.

“Every taxpayer dollar should be used efficiently and in a way that best serves Americans,” Moran said. “The accuracy of these maps will make certain funding reaches places in need of broadband access and does not overbuild areas that already have internet access.”