Gov. Laura Kelly signed Executive Order #20-67 on Oct. 8 to establish the Office of Broadband Development and announced the distribution of nearly $50 million in Connectivity Emergency Response Grant funds to underserved communities across Kansas.
By expanding access to broadband, Kelly’s administration will support economic development opportunities, increase access to health care and education and promote network affordability for Kansans statewide.
“Broadband access has been an overlooked problem in Kansas and across the country for years, particularly in our rural and vulnerable communities,” Kelly said. “Today’s announcements mark a significant step forward in my administration’s commitment to achieving the universal broadband coverage that will make our state’s communities competitive economically, healthier, and improve educational access.”
The Office of Broadband Development will be housed in the Kansas Department of Commerce and led by Stanley Adams, current director of Broadband Initiatives for the Department of Commerce.
“Broadband is one of our state’s greatest economic development tools,” Adams said. “With the Office of Broadband Development, we will take on the critical work of helping unserved and underserved communities with technical assistance and funding expertise necessary to get them online.”
“With an enhanced focus from the Office of Broadband Development, we will greatly improve critical access to business, education, and healthcare connectivity needed statewide,” Commerce Secretary David Toland said. “Broadband truly is a critical building block to a brighter future. With today’s announcement from Governor Kelly, the moment has come to further power the ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit that are hallmarks of our great state.”
The Office of Broadband Development will:
- Evaluate and report annually on the extent, quality, and affordability of broadband offerings in Kansas;
- Develop strategies to facilitate construction of broadband infrastructure necessary to achieve functionally universal broadband access for Kansas homes and businesses;
- And develop and advocate for policies that make high-quality broadband service more accessible, affordable, and reliable in underserved and vulnerable communities.
Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers joined in the announcement to highlight its importance for Kansas’ rural and agricultural communities.
“Ag technology is continuously changing to allow farmers and producers to increase efficiency and output,” Rogers said. “Without broadband, Kansas’ hardworking farmers—and our rural communities as a whole—are being left behind. I am very excited to partner with the Office of Broadband Development and the Departments of Commerce and Transportation to strengthen our broadband infrastructure in every corner of our state.”
E.O. #20-67 is effective immediately and shall remain in force until rescinded.
Kelly also announced that 67 projects were awarded a share of nearly $50 million for broadband infrastructure improvements. 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.
“Kansans are best served when state government partners with communities and businesses to offer more options and solve problems. Today’s announcement will allow us to do all those things,” Julie Lorenz, KDOT Secretary and Office of Recovery Executive Director, said. “I want to thank our SPARK taskforce, legislators, and Kansans—without their input and support this would not have been possible.”