by Tim Carpenter, Kansas Reflector
May 28, 2023
TOPEKA — U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran urged the U.S. Department of Commerce to rely on accurate data to target federal funding at Kansas’ last-place ranking on average internet download speed.
The Kansas Republican said improving the state’s access to high-quality broadband would benefit up to 1 million Kansans, especially rural residents, who live without access to the kind of digital connections important for personal business, education and health.
Moran said in a letter to Gina Raimondo, secretary of the U.S. commerce department, a recent broadband quality study indicated Kansas was last in terms of average download speed and trailed by wide margins speeds available in Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Missouri.
Kansas ranked 51st among all states and the District of Columbia in download speed, which was among key determinants of quality broadband delivery.
It was important to Kansans, the senator said, because data-intensive consumer and business internet applications were undermined by mediocre download speeds.
“That means many Kansans will be poorer, sicker and less educated than their peers that have access to high-quality broadband,” Moran said. “A lot of work has been done to improve broadband in Kansas, but it is clear there is plenty of work left to do.”
Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has emphasized broadband expansion in Kansas by targeting state and federal investments to improve connectivity. In early May, she directed $30 million in competitive funding through the Lasting Infrastructure and Network Connectivity program to add infrastructure useful for homes and businesses.
That goal of LINK was to reduce the cost of internet service, increase its availability and improve performance for users. Eligible entities include internet service providers, political subdivisions, tribal governments, cooperatives and non-profit organizations.
“Many have shared their frustration about a lack of access to high-speed internet that is crucial to remote work and precision agriculture, among other needs,” said Jade Piros de Carvalho, the state’s broadband development director.
In Moran’s letter to the U.S. commerce secretary, he recommended the federal government rely on accurate state-by-state data to allocate resources through the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program.
The senator suggested the federal commerce department avoid subsidizing the overbuilding of broadband services developed by private companies and to maximize broadband provider participation by restraining regulatory burdens.
“Collectively,” Moran said, “these steps will help ensure the program avoids the missteps of prior broadband deployment programs and is successful in bridging the digital divide.”
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