TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Governor Laura Kelly announced that 49 million dollars is being sent out to Kansas communities to provide or improve access to the internet.
As the coronavirus crisis has highlighted the need for better internet access across the state, government officials are hoping the expansion project will help more Kansans get connected.
“They’re sort of shovel-ready in the digital sense was important, and then clearly the need, whether it was a rural community or an inner city that demonstrated the need to get this done in an expeditious way,” Kelly said.
The money is part of more than $1 billion in CARES Act funding that state leaders had to decide how to spend.
Lieutenant Governor Lynn Rogers said many rural towns in the state with slow internet struggle to hold school online, recruit businesses, and convince young people to settle down in the community.
“Our rural communities deserve support, they deserve an equal chance to succeed as their friends and neighbors do in urban communities,” Rogers says.
There are 67 projects. One is $5.9 million to help a group of underserved cities in Southwest Kansas, including Plains, Fowler, and Meade. Another project is a $500 thousand grant to provide fiber connectivity at the Garden City International Airport.
During the unveiling, the Governor also announced the creation of the Office of Broadband Development. It will be housed in the Kansas Department of Commerce. It will help ensure state departments, local governments, and private businesses are working toward the same goal.
“One of the biggest challenges in expanding broadband access to underserved areas is the excavation costs of installing fiberoptic cable,” said Julie Lorenz, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Transportation. “In what is really a commonsense approach, KDOT is helping to reduce this cost by allowing companies to install cable as part of our highway construction work where the ground is already being dug up. This will increase options for where companies can afford to expand their coverage to serve more Kansans.”
Supporters of the expansion said the projects are important, but are just part of the long-term solution, and that is why the office being created is so critical.
“With an enhanced focus from the Office of Broadband Development, we will greatly improve critical access to business, education, and healthcare connectivity needed statewide, said Commerce Secretary David Toland.
You can view the list of the projects here.