Recently, the Federal Reserve bank of Kansas City released a report surrounding the very important issue of high-speed internet access. Chiefly, the report examined two main topics: 1) how Kansas compares to others in terms of high-speed internet coverage; and, 2) the increasing inequality gap between citizens who have access to high-speed internet, and those who don’t.
The report painted a fairly dim picture of Kansas connectivity. According to the Federal Reserve study, only 87% of Kansas is covered by broadband. The state ranks just 38th in terms of those who have access to internet with speeds of 25 megabits per second or faster. Further, 21% of Kansans are considered “underserved,” an industry term that means an individual has access to fewer than two wired broadband providers.
The report also showed that Kansas is falling behind other states in the 10th Federal Reserve District, which includes the states of Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming.
But Kansas cable companies are doing their part. Cable providers in Kansas, such as CableONE, Charter Communications, Cox Communications, Comcast, Eagle Communications, Mediacom, Midco and Vyve have been taking steps to improve on these broadband access statistics by investing tens of millions of dollars to upgrade existing cable systems. Cox Communications, Kansas’ largest cable and broadband provider, offers consumers internet speeds up to 1-Gigabit to every community they serve in Kansas. Further, in an effort to expand broadband offerings in small, rural, expensive-to-reach Kansas communities, cable companies have worked to form public-private partnerships that will allow them to offer critical high-speed internet to Kansas consumers similar to that in other parts of the state.
Alarmingly, the Federal Reserve Report notes that 53% of adults with incomes of less than $30,000 have broadband at home. Comparably, those who have incomes of $75,000 or more take broadband at a rate of 95%. The cable industry believes that high-speed internet should be available to all individuals, regardless of their income level.
To combat this inequality, the cable industry has established numerous programs to assist those households that couldn’t ordinarily afford high-speed internet. Whether it be the Internet Essentials Program, or the Connect2Compete Program, cable companies are offering connectivity for less than $10 per month to eligible households. These programs specifically target individuals with children, so that they may be able to compete in an increasingly digital world. And Charter Spectrum, through their Internet Assist Program offers a program that focuses on internet training to those individuals 65 and older who are on Supplemental Security Income.
With an eye towards the future, the Kansas Cable Telecommunications Association (KCTA) was pleased to take the lead and work with Kansas legislative policymakers to establish a Statewide Broadband Expansion Planning Task Force. Members of the task force include; legislators, members of the telecom industry, and other individuals representing local government, agriculture and business. The goal of the task force is to have open dialogue among a variety of stakeholders to craft a solution to our access problem and put forth a statewide broadband plan for the Legislature’s consideration.
As the largest provider of broadband in the state, the cable industry will continue to innovate, and invest in Kansas communities and stands ready to lead on this issue. As it relates to broadband access,…Kansas can do better, Kansas must do better, Kansas will do better.
John J. Federico is the president of the Kansas Cable Telecommunications Association.