Grants Approved For High-Speed Internet Providers To Expand Rural Access; $12M Set For Cowley, Surrounding Counties

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Two broadband service providers for Cowley and surrounding counties will benefit from nearly $12 million in funding to extend high-speed internet to rural areas.

According to a news release from Gov. Laura Kelly’s office Tuesday, $44.5 million will be awarded to nine service providers to extend high-speed internet to 18,468 locations in 15 underserved counties across the state. This is the third and final award phase of the Kansas Capital Project Funds Broadband Infrastructure Program.

The grant program resulted from the U.S. Department of Treasury’s approval of Kansas’ Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund broadband infrastructure plan. The federal CPF program is a $10 billion capital project initiative available to states, territories, and tribal governments under the American Rescue Plan Act.

The American Rescue Plan Act was signed by President Joe Biden in 2021. It passed the House with no Republican votes, including Rep. Ron Estes, whose district includes Cowley and surrounding counties.

Kanas Senators Jerry Moran and Roger Marshall also voted against it, along with the rest of the GOP in the Senate, where it passed 50-49.

The CPF program provides funding to make broadband connections in critical areas of the state that lack access to high-speed internet, the governor’s news release said.

The $83.5 million total CPF investment, combined with almost $42 million in matching funds, will result in more than 24,500 homes, businesses, schools, health care facilities, and other public institutions being connected to fast, reliable internet for the first time.

“The Capital Projects Fund represents a giant step toward getting every Kansan connected to high-speed internet,” Kelly said. “With this funding, we’re closer than ever to reaching our goal of making Kansas a top 10 state for broadband access by 2030.”

The targeted counties have as few as five locations per square mile, which until now has prevented providers from investing the resources needed to deliver a quality broadband option. The CPF Grant Program provides the funding needed to implement high-speed broadband in these areas of the state.

“The CPF program is a historic win for the state,” Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Commerce David Toland said. “Through this grant program, we are supporting Kansans most in need by connecting the unserved, underserved, and those located in counties with high economic risk.”

Demonstrating the need and critical nature of the program, the Kansas Office of Broadband Development received 141 applications for projects totaling more than $600 million. A total of 24 projects were funded.

“We appreciate the support the providers and local governments are committing to ensure that all Kansans have equitable access to affordable high-speed internet,” Jade Piros de Carvalho, Broadband Development Director, said. “Supporting unserved and underserved communities across the state will continue to bridge the gap and provide a key resource for generations to come.”

Grant awardees and communities that will benefit from the third phase of the Kansas CPF Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program include:

  • AT&T (Sedgwick County) – $2,206,491
    The proposed service area is 99% unserved on the fringes of the Wichita metro area, targeting multi-dwelling unit properties. The project will offer a subsidy to assist with discounted broadband services.
  • Butler Rural Electric Cooperative Association (Butler, Cowley, Sedgwick, and Sumner counties) – $9,815,894
    The multi-county region targeted is 83% unserved, and 50% of the area is located in an economically disadvantaged county. This significant investment will bring connectivity to south-central Kansas.
  • Cox Communications (Jackson, Shawnee, and Wabaunsee counties) – $6,373,948
    This multi-county project is 100% unserved. To connect these rural areas northwest of Topeka, Cox will use an affordable, scalable solution already deployed in the KC metro region.
  • Cunningham Communications (Mitchell County) – $1,192,735
    Hundreds of residences and businesses in this 98% unserved area will be positively impacted by the Fiber To The Home network that will be provided by Cunningham Communications.
  • GBT Rural (Pawnee and Stafford counties) – $6,782,694
    More than 365 square miles of an economically distressed area with a 92% unserved population will be covered by GBT Rural.
  • Iowa Tribe (Doniphan County) – $1,424,945
    This very rural, remote, and economically disadvantaged area in the northeast corner of Kansas is 91% unserved. The project will be based on a partnership between the Iowa Tribe, Doniphan County, Rainbow Telecommunications, and the City of White Cloud.
  • Mokan Dial (Miami County) – $5,590,145
    The 65-square-mile project area is 97% unserved. Mokan Dial will ensure symmetrical speeds up to 1G will be available and affordable to everyone in the targeted region.
  • Nex-Tech (Decatur and Saline counties) – $10,764,700
    Two separate project areas servicing a 99% unserved area of Saline County and a 93% unserved area of Decatur County. These awards will allow Nex-Tech to build the necessary infrastructure required to reach these rural areas.
  • WANRack (Johnson County) – $400,000
    This award will target a 100% unserved area of Johnson County. WANRack’s project will enable Kansans to participate in telehealth, remote work, educational opportunities, and the digital economy.
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