Sunday, October 24, 2010
In the early days of 'the net,' nobody knew how it would change our lives. Now, just about every aspect of our lives depends on being connected. That's why business leaders and officials from across the state are in Wichita for a summit on broadband planning. High-speed Internet isn't just a luxury anymore. It is a vital part of a community's infrastructure.
"This is in a lot of ways, our generation's rural electrification program," explained Joe Monaco of the Kansas Department of Commerce.
More than 90% of Kansans currently have access to some kind of broadband Internet right now. The issue, though, is that in some parts of the state, there isn't enough competition, so the cost is too high. Even some Western Kansas residents are limited to dial-up service.
"That connectivity is just as important in rural Kansas as it is in a metropolitan area," said Jimmy Todd of Mutual Telephone Co. in Little River. "We need to make sure that we can provide that same kind of connectivity throughout the state."
The federal Recovery Act provided states more than $7-billion in funding to help ensure everyone - even in the most rural areas - has access to high-speed Internet. Nine Kansas companies received a combined $147-million in grants and loans to expand broadband Internet infrastructure.
"The new economy; the 21st century is really dependent on broadband and reaching out to these deep rural areas and providing those services that up until now really haven't been available," said Steven Dorf of Kansas Fiber Network.
Sunday's broadband summit is the first state-sponsored event to get policy makers and government leaders together to talk about what has been done so far and to lay out a road map for where to go from here.
"Broadband Internet is no longer a luxury," Monaco said. "It's absolutely essential infrastructure for economic development, for sustainable communities, for e-medicine, for distance learning and for education."
The state has now unveiled an interactive map that shows what Internet services are available in every area of the state. Click on the link below this article to view it.