From Kansas - To The Stars

Grants Boost Rural Participation In The Digital-Focused Economy

by Mark Arend

Governor Laura Kelly announced in March 2021 the Broadband Acceleration Grant Program, which will improve access to highspeed internet for homes and businesses in communities statewide.

“Broadband access has been an overlooked problem in Kansas and across the country for years — but my administration knows it’s a game-changer, particularly for rural and underserved areas of our state,” Governor Kelly said. “These grants use an aggressive timeline to support urgent broadband needs that came to light during the pandemic. We’re committed to ensuring every Kansan has access to the connection they need for telehealth, virtual school, and to ensure business can compete in an increasingly digital-focused economy.”

The Broadband Acceleration Grant Program is critical in Kansas’ plan to address broadband gaps statewide. Funds will be targeted to areas that are unlikely to receive broadband service without state or federal funding support.

Launched in 2020, the program is poised to invest $85 million over 10 years to bridge the digital divide in Kansas, thanks to broadband modernization funding provided by the Kelly Administration’s bipartisan Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Program (IKE).

Since the summer of 2020, Governor Kelly’s efforts have spurred more than $75 million of total investment in broadband infrastructure in Kansas to address pandemic health, education and business challenges and spur community and economic development. The first program, the Connectivity Emergency Response Grant funded through the state SPARK program, generated more than $65 million in total investment through 66 broadband infrastructure projects completed across the state. Impacting rural communities in 74 of Kansas’ 105 counties, the program improved the availability of broadband access for more than 51,000 households, businesses and municipalities. The initial year of the Broadband Acceleration Grant invested an additional $10 million in state broadband grants and matching funds.

‘Only the Beginning’

“We said we would be aggressive about improving broadband access, and that’s exactly what we’ve done,” David Toland, Lieutenant Governor and Commerce Secretary, said. “This is only the beginning, and the Kelly administration is committed to seeing every Kansan connected. Through this initial round of grants, we are laying a strong foundation to continue to build a robust broadband infrastructure for our state, now and into the future.”

“COVID-19 shined a spotlight on the importance of broadband connectivity as it relates to distance learning, remote work and telehealth services,” said Julie Lorenz, Transportation Secretary. “It’s critical infrastructure as important as safe roads, bridges and drinking water.”

Applicants, awarded grant amounts and matching investments are as indicated in the chart above.

“The efficient infrastructure deployments enabled through these grants are vital to making scarce funding dollars stretch as far as possible by building on previous successes in our pandemic response programs,” Director of the Kansas Office of Broadband Development Stanley Adams said. “Governor Kelly recognizes that robust broadband access is necessary for all communities, and I appreciate her commitment to this effort. As a result, many more Kansans will be connected.”

In October 2020, Governor Kelly signed Executive Order #20-67 to establish the Office of Broadband Development and announced the distribution of nearly $50 million in Connectivity Emergency Response Grant (CERG) funds to underserved communities across Kansas. 

The projects are funded through the Coronavirus Relief Fund of the federal CARES Act and are part of the connectivity program approved by the Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) Taskforce and the State Finance Council. 

Mark Arend
Editor Emeritus of Site Selection magazine

Mark Arend

Mark Arend is editor emeritus of Site Selection, and previously served as editor in chief from 2001 to 2023. Prior to joining the editorial staff in 1997, he worked for 10 years in New York City at Wall Street Computer Review, ABA Banking Journal and Global Investment Technology. Mark graduated from the University of Hartford (Conn.) in 1985 and lives near Atlanta, Georgia.


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