Access to quality, affordable internet proves to be necessity in pandemic
(WIBW) - In the past, having high-speed internet was looked at as a luxury, not a necessity, but the COVID-19 pandemic has proved access to quality and affordable broadband is more important than ever.
Two people with similar struggles said they’ve simply ran out of options trying to get internet at their homes.
“I didn’t realize it would be as hard as it is to find internet in this area because I’ve had it all my life," said Rose Shenk, a native of Meriden who just moved back to the area in August.
She bought a home about five miles outside of the Topeka city limits and began searching for an internet provider.
“I went to AT&T and they said they did not reach my area," Shenk continued saying, "I went into the COX store and asked them how much it would cost to get a line out to me because my next door neighbors have them as their provider, and they told me it would be $16,000 and that was unreasonable for us, so we went ahead and contacted several other companies.”
Dozens of phone calls later, Shenk still has no internet access. A problem she worries could impact her job if school buildings were to close again.
“I’m afraid that if we go totally remote I won’t be able to do my job at home. I’ll have to find somewhere else to be able to communicate with the kids and be on zoom," she said.
State Representative Fred Patton has similar frustrations.
“We live right in the middle of North Topeka and have very little ability to get internet access at our house,” he said.
Patton adds that made it hard to adapt during the pandemic.
He said, “School shuts down and we have three kids at home and my wife’s an educator and I’m trying to work some from home as well, and you just can’t get on.”
As a lawmaker, Patton recognizes his role in expanding that access and asks the community to voice their concerns too.
“They need to lobby their legislators or those in Congress that have access to those resources because yeah, you complain to COX and AT&T and others, but they can’t do it for free and it’s costly to run lines and provide services out in some of the areas of our community," he said.
Shenk said she has reached out to the Governor’s office and the Kansas Department of Commerce for help.
“I am looking to get some kind of an answer," she said, "I feel like there has to be an answer, I can’t just not have internet.”
Patton said the state plans to utilize federal dollars to expand access to about 300 homes in northern Shawnee County, in the coming weeks.
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