LAWRENCE – Researchers at the University of Kansas’ Institute for Political and Social Research aim to develop high-quality data on the accessibility and affordability of broadband, and they need the help of families across the country. Kansas to understand Internet priorities in Sunflower State.
Through a series of surveys and focus groups, Donna Ginther, Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor of Economics and Director of the PRRO, and Germaine Halegoua, John D. Evans Development Professor and Associate Professor of Communication and Media at the ‘University of Michigan, will map broadband speeds by zip code and collect information on the priorities of fellow Kansans. Supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration, Ginther and Halegua implemented a survey in March to assess the availability and quality of Internet connections across Kansas, but they lack the contribution. groups most affected by service gaps – parents of elementary and secondary students.
Kansans can complete the survey on the PRRO website.
“We hope to reach parents and rural families in particular,” Halegua said. “We suspect that students and parents of primary and secondary school students have been significantly affected by inadequate internet access and slow speeds at home. We know that farm businesses and rural communities are often affected by limited service options. Their concerns are not currently well represented in our survey, but we need to hear their concerns and experiences. “
Access gaps across Kansas
According to an internal report from the nonprofit Kansas Appleseed, there are 226 wired internet providers in the state of Kansas. Despite these figures, 165,000 Kansans do not have wired broadband internet service available in their homes. Over 300,000 residents are plagued by slow speeds and nearly 350,000 people have only one provider serving their location. Single vendor means families don’t have the ability to switch vendors, which limits comparison by price and service plan.
These gaps are significant at a time when access to essential services depends on affordable high-speed Internet service. Families with school-aged children, especially families in rural communities, have long felt the effects of inadequate service. The Kansas Health Institute has reported that one in four Kansas children under the age of 18 do not have adequate Internet access. Lack of access hinders student participation in distance education and limits the ability of patients in medically underserved areas to reach specialists away from their homes.
Rural Kansans and the “digital divide”
Researchers and policymakers are taking action to close the “digital divide” in Kansas. The digital divide refers to differences in access to the personal, social, educational and economic benefits of technological innovation. In Kansas, there is an urban-rural gap in high-speed Internet access. Information from the Kansas Health Foundation and the Kansas City Federal Reserve suggests that nearly half of the people in the Flint Hills area, which has 11 counties, do not have adequate internet access. In six of the 22 regions in their study, 40% of residents do not have adequate Internet service. The best-served areas of the state are in Johnson County.
State governments across the country have stepped up efforts to map the digital divide, as a first step in ensuring access to broadband services statewide. Understanding the problem requires collecting detailed information about the service gaps. But the existing information on broadband access at the state level is based on self-reporting by service providers. State-level information is not detailed enough to understand the differences in availability and speed of service for adjacent neighborhoods. In addition, there is almost no data on affordability.
Map the gaps
The research team hopes their work will form the basis of political efforts to expand Internet access in Kansas. They urge all Kansans – especially parents of school-aged children – to offer information about their current internet services and needs through an online survey at the link below. The survey covers current speeds and costs of services and takes approximately 10 minutes to complete. It includes an Internet connection speed test, so participants are encouraged to take it from their homes; Kansans who do not have home internet service are welcome to participate from any location and should answer questions about their home service options. Kansans who do not have home internet service are also encouraged to contact researchers, by email or otherwise, with their experiences.
Kansans, help your community by telling us about your local broadband services – take the survey today.