A goal of the $1.2 trillion federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is to ensure every American has access to reliable high-speed internet – no small feat. Kansas is set to receive $3.8 billion in BIL funding over the next five years, and $100 million of that has been earmarked for broadband expansion.
More than 650 government officials and business leaders attended the first Kansas Infrastructure Summit in Wichita on July 13-14 to discuss ways to improve infrastructure, with a focus on funding opportunities and public-private partnerships. Breakout sessions covered broadband, cybersecurity, transportation, energy and power, water and sewer, and emergency preparedness.
“I’m grateful we could bring together infrastructure leaders from across the state to strategize how we can strengthen Kansas for years to come,” Governor Laura Kelly said in her opening speech.
Twin Valley and SKT were represented at the event, with Traci Thompson, Director of Operations, and Megan Harper, Director of Marketing & Sales, in attendance. They connected with local leaders and learned more about grant opportunities to further the company’s mission of providing reliable broadband connectivity to unserved Kansans at the best value.
The companies are among Kansas’ strong network of private and cooperative internet providers who have been investing in rural and unserved communities for decades, and this infusion of broadband funding will help them extend service to those who need it most. Their dedication helped Kansas earn the No. 9 spot for internet access in the latest US News and World Reports ranking, but the state still has a long way to go before achieving the goal of broadband for all.
“As a rural internet provider, we were among the first in the nation to bring fiber to the home technology to rural communities, successfully implementing one of the largest loans awarded by the USDA, totaling $76 million,” Harper said. “Independent providers like us have continuously made these strategic investments in rural Kansas communities to improve connectivity for thousands of individuals, families, and businesses – even when the big, national brands abandoned them. Funding broadband expansion to reach every Kansan would be impossible though without public-private partnerships, and we are excited to see that this is a priority for federal and state leaders.”
While constructing a future-proof, multi-gigabit fiber network is the primary goal, it can be cost-prohibitive to reach remote locations. The industry target for cost to build a fiber network hovers right around $2,000 per home or business passed, not including the cost to build the middle mile network between communities or neighborhoods in addition to fiber off the main line to the premise. A Summit broadband panelist sited that some of the most rural areas can reach $30,000-$40,000 per home or business passed, making it impossible for broadband providers to make those investments and provide service at an affordable rate without support.
At the Kansas Infrastructure Summit, officials said the state will leverage those public-private partnerships with broadband providers to extend the impact of the $100 million in federal broadband funding. Twin Valley and SKT will continue to apply for funding to improve access to reliable broadband in unserved or underserved Kansas communities, seeking support from local government leaders and economic development groups to strengthen grant applications. The companies are actively meeting with city and county government officials to explore partnership opportunities. If you are in an unserved or underserved area, reach out to your local community leaders to ask them to support grant funding for Twin Valley and SKT to bring fiber to your area. To learn more about active fiber projects, visit twinvalley.net/fiber.
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