For you folks who grind your teeth when that little circular arrow is spinning on your computer, or who see the screen on your computer go blank during that Netflix movie, well, help eventually may be on the way.
That help? The Statewide Broadband Expansion Planning Task Force, which is the Legislature’s start on making sure that from border to border there is fast, reliable and affordable broadband Internet access.
And for you folks who by now try to remember where you put your walker before heading out to pick up the newspaper on the driveway, this is a whole new level of “universal access.” The old version? That was when the state’s effort was to make sure that everyone in Kansas had access to a black dial telephone back when phone poles were sparse in areas where cattle outnumbered Kansans and where there were more combines than lawn mowers.
The effort: To first map out the areas of the state where access to fast Internet service is important to Kansans, to businesses and industries and to governments and organizations. That’s going to be tricky, because nobody doesn’t want the fastest Internet available, whether it’s for watching movies, sending e-mails, the kids doing school work at home or competing for contracts for intellectual services.
It’s different than the old days when a paved road was a major boost for economic development, isn’t it?
The issue has turned out to be not just a rural issue where cell towers and cable services are sparse and a hill or a grain elevator can hamper that fast Internet service. There are blocks in major Kansas cities where the skies are obstructed by cable wires and a forest of antennae atop buildings, there are down times when that service isn’t available or your computer or phone can’t get on line.
Figuring out where that Internet over wire or through the airwaves is substandard or not dependable is going to be tough. For rural areas, it’s going to require cooperation among providers and some cost sharing between state and federal governments and the providers of Internet access to get that signal everywhere — at a profit.
Because, now that we’ve all got phones, broadband Internet access is joining water, electricity and mail as basic services that Kansans are demanding.
At some point, it’s probably a good thing that the Legislature has decided to jump into the complicated issue of getting that broadband to everywhere in the state, and at some point, it’s going to be interesting to see where the priorities are on that service.
Spend money, or maybe impose a tax on Internet service so that the high-demand areas help finance the rural areas? That’s what happened with telephone service, as your phone bill tells you.
Does that access become a right, like access to public schools, which by the way want more broadband access so that students can study from home and the schools can provide study materials from around the world, not just the occasional e-mail or those textbooks which once printed aren’t updated?
It’s going to be interesting to watch and important for the state…
But … those little circular arrows are spinning on the task force, because its members haven’t all been designated by legislative leaders, and there’s not a list yet of the non-legislative members who are supposed to figure this broadband business out for us.
Yes, there is this election coming up, and in some rural areas of the state there are candidates talking about bringing high-speed broadband to every acre of Kansas.
But for now, that little arrow is still spinning.
Martin Hawver is publisher of
Hawver’s Capitol Report