March 13, 2018
KANSAS LEADERS DISCUSS RURAL CONNECTIVITY AND PRECISION AGRICULTURE AT BROADBAND FORUM
As the home of more than 60,000 farms, expanded broadband access is critical to Kansas’ agricultural communities and economic future.
MANHATTAN, KS – Connect Americans Now (CAN) today hosted a presentation and roundtable discussion on the coalition’s plan to unleash new technology that promises to help eliminate Kansas’ digital divide by 2022. Held in conjunction with the Kansas State University College of Agriculture, participants focused on the need to expand rural broadband access in order to enable precision agriculture tools that help farmers cut-costs, conserve resources and increase yields.
“A broadband connection is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity to be successful in the 21st Century economy,” said Janae Talbot, director of Russell County Economic Development. “All Kansans – whether they live in downtown Wichita or on a farm in Scott County – deserve reliable access to the internet. We are excited to see Connect Americans Now pushing ahead on innovative solutions that will expand access throughout our state and close the digital divide once and for all.”
To provide affordable and reliable service in rural communities, CAN seeks to deploy a combination of “wired” and “wireless” technologies, including fiber-based, satellite and wireless technologies, leveraging a range of frequencies including TV white spaces. To make this plan a reality, CAN is urging the FCC to ensure that three channels below 700 MHz are available for wireless use on an unlicensed basis in every market in the country.
This regulatory certainty would allow local service providers, equipment vendors and chip manufacturers to quicken the pace of their investments, mass produce lower-cost equipment, and bring connectivity into small businesses, homes, schools, clinics, and farms across the heartland.
TV white spaces are already working in Kansas, where Microsoft and Pioneer Communications have partnered to bring connectivity to underserved farms in Scott County.
“About 33 percent of rural Kansans lack a broadband connection, leaving them unable to take advantage of the world of opportunity available online,” said Ricard T. Cullen, executive director of Connect Americans Now. “This digital divide is particularly prevalent in Kansas’ agricultural communities, where many farmers are struggling to keep up without modern-day precision agriculture tools. We’ve seen how TV white spaces can expand access in Scott County, and today’s discussion represents a vital step toward creating the regulatory certainty necessary to duplicate that success across the state.”
6.5 million students lack access to high speed internet, but 70 percent of teachers assign homework that requires a broadband connection. More than 100,000 Kansas students reside in rural areas, where more students struggle to keep up with their assignments and fail to learn the computer skills they need to succeed and enter college or the workforce.
Telemedicine could collectively save lives and millions of dollars annually for underserved patients and rural hospitals that pay up to three times more for broadband than their urban counterparts. Sixty-four percent of Kansas’ hospitals are in rural areas, and broadband connectivity could allow their patients, regardless of where they live, to access specialists and benefit from advanced monitoring services that would normally require hours of travel for patients or their providers.
Kansas is home to more than 60,000 farms, and broadband access could bring the promise of precision agriculture, including remote monitoring equipment that helps farmers save money by optimizing irrigation, conserving resources and increasing yields. It also allows farmers to search for new customers, find buyers willing to pay higher prices and identify the most affordable sources of seeds, fertilizers and farm equipment.
Small businesses employ more than half of Kansas’ workforce, and broadband access will drive economic growth and job opportunities by enabling them to expand their customer base from local to global and attract new industries to rural communities.
High-speed internet supports workforce development by allowing rural job seekers to access services online, develop new skills through cloud-based training and secure additional employment opportunities like remote teleworking. It will also allow rural communities to keep and attract new workers who require a broadband connection to carry out their daily responsibilities.
About Connect Americans Now
Connect Americans Now is a group of concerned citizens, local organizations, rural advocates and leading innovators committed to eliminating the digital divide that is holding back rural America. Our goal is to bring rural Americans who currently lack connectivity safe and affordable broadband access by 2022 so they can take advantage of the economic and educational opportunities that exist in other communities.