Kansas receives nearly $5.7M to expand equitable broadband access

Gov. Laura Kelly announced Dec. 22 that Kansas has received nearly $5.7 million to expand broadband access, adoption, and affordability, from the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications and Information Administration Office.

"Communities across the Kansas have enormous potential for a new chapter of innovation and success," Kelly said. "This funding will propel the state forward, accelerating our efforts to ensure all Kansans can fully participate in the digital world."

The funds are part of the designated $65 billion as outlined in the federal bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in 2021, dubbed the “Internet for All Initiative.”

“The Internet for All initiative will bridge the digital divide in Kansas and ensure rural areas have the service they need to access telehealth, education and jobs," said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. "I appreciate Gov. Kelly’s commitment to connecting all Kansas homes and businesses to affordable, reliable high-speed Internet service."

“Kansans use the internet to work, learn, keep in touch with family, grow a business, get health care, and more. While access to high-speed internet is a gateway to opportunity, that opportunity is not distributed equally in our state,” said Rep. Sharice Davids, KS-03. “I’m proud to have voted for this new federal funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law that will help every Kansan thrive in the digital age.”

The Kansas Department of Commerce’s Office of Broadband Development will use these funds in a variety of ways. Almost $5 million will be used to deploy the Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment program that is part of the Internet for All Initiative. The remaining $692,000 will be used to deploy the first phase of NTIA’s Digital Equity Act.

“Broadband equity starts with access, but also includes adoption and application,” Lt. Gov. and Secretary of Commerce David Toland said. “The state is committed to providing capacity and resources to ensure everyone has the access and skills needed to benefit from digital technologies in their lives.”

OBD will engage with stakeholders across Kansas to develop both a five-year action plan and a Statewide Digital Equity Plan, which will provide direction and measures to assist in deployment of high-speed affordable and reliable internet to all Kansans. Both plans will be submitted to NTIA by August 2023.

The office will hold events at 25 to 30 locations around the state beginning in January. Special attention will be paid to groups and communities that are disproportionately impacted by digital inequity. These groups include low-income households, aging populations, people with disabilities or language barriers, racial and ethnic minorities, rural inhabitants, incarcerated individuals, and veterans.

“These planning dollars will allow our office the opportunity to connect and engage with all Kansans,” said Jade Piros de Carvalho, director of the Office of Broadband Development. “We will launch our planning efforts at our inaugural Kansas Broadband Summit on January 19 at Wichita State University. This event will be the first opportunity to connect with communities across Kansas and ask for partnership and support as we coordinate efforts to connect Kansans with high-speed, reliable internet access.”

All 50 U.S. states and six territories applied for planning grant funding from the Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment program and the Digital Equity Act program. Grant awards for all 56 eligible entities will be announced on a rolling basis.

Visit the Kansas Office of Broadband Development website here. More information about the federal efforts is available at AffordableConnectivity.gov and InternetforAll.gov.