Lawmakers recommend broadband internet expansion

Capitol Bureau

FILE – A woman holds a cellphone in front of a laptop computer.

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — The internet plays a big part in society today. However, it’s estimated that at least 17% of Kansans do not have access to the internet at home, and that doesn’t include those who can’t afford internet access.

As the daily use of internet grows, the state is looking for ways to provide broadband internet access to Kansans across the state. The Statewide Broadband Expansion Planning Task Force had its final interim meeting on Tuesday, where members of the committee made recommendations to the legislature.

The task force assigned three subcommittees to write reports on what they thought was important. All three subcommittee reports will be compiled for a final report that is given to members of the legislature.

For teacher Cherryl Delacruz, the internet has made huge advancements in the classroom but for students that don’t have internet access at home, it can be difficult.

“When I asked ‘How many of you have seen the assignment and the resources that I posted in Google Classroom?’, and I maybe had like 60-70% and every student matters,” said Cherryl. “When I asked those kids why they didn’t, their answer was ‘I don’t have any wifi.'”

Cherryl says the students with no internet access are resourceful, completing homework offline at home, staying late at school or going to the library to finish work, and using their cell phone data to do work.

“In a perfect world, everyone in Kansas would have access to broadband,” said task force co-chair, Senator Ty Masteron (R). He continues, “Raising what it means to have broadband. Some of the definitions in the statute are outdated, if you will, and what met broadband ten years ago really isn’t broadband today.”

Cherryl says broadband expansion would be a welcome change.

“That would be very helpful for our students,” she said.

The report from the task force will be made available to the full legislature ahead of the beginning of the 2020 session in January. A lawmaker can decide to draft a bill on broadband internet expansion and introduce it to the rest of the legislature. Senator Masterson anticipated that will happen next year.

“I think there will be legislation as a result of this process,” he said. “To the extent that it goes and gets completely through the process and lands on the governor’s desk, that will obviously be determined in session.”

To view an interactive map that shows broadband availability in Kansas, click here.

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