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Program introduced to provide broadband access to rural, underserved communities

Published: Nov. 25, 2020 at 5:32 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Governor Laura Kelly has introduced a program to provide broadband access to rural and underserved communities.

Governor Laura Kelly says she has announced the introduction of the new Broadband Acceleration Grant Program in order to expand broadband access to rural and underserved communities throughout Kansas. She said 2020 marks the first time in Kansas history that there has been a concerted, statewide, bipartisan effort to fund increased broadband access.

According to Gov. Kelly, over the next 10 years, the program will invest $85 million toward bridging the digital divide, thanks to broadband modernization funding provided through the Kansas Department of Transportation’s Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Program. She said as the result of swift legislative action, $5 million will be available each year over the next three years, with $10 million each year made available over the following seven years.

“These grants are a critical part of my administration’s work to provide underserved Kansans with the high-speed internet they need to compete economically and to improve access to health, education, and commercial tools,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “We are working quickly to ensure our communities, no matter their zip code, are adequately equipped for prosperity and growth, as Kansas continues to rebuild its foundation.”

Gov. Kelly said a maximum of $1 million per grant will go toward funding projects providing access to high quality, reliable broadband throughout the state, with priority given to applications addressing underserved areas, economically distressed communities and areas of compelling need.

“The Office of Rural Prosperity has engaged with thousands of Kansans, and one thing we hear time and time again is that expanding broadband would be a blessing for their communities,” Lieutenant Governor Lynn Rogers said. “Governor Kelly and her administration as a whole are committed to delivering the resources rural Kansans need.”

According to Gov. Kelly, Broadband Acceleration will specifically help projects that address priorities of underserved, economically distressed and service areas with compelling needs.

“These grants will make the difference for so many communities without access to broadband,” Secretary of Commerce David Toland said. “We’re looking to assist innovative, forward-thinking organizations and projects through this program, in order to ensure that Kansas communities aren’t just catching up but are pushing forward into the future.”

Gov. Kelly said applicants are expected to engage community leaders and stakeholders in developing projects that are strategic, scalable and bridge critical access gaps to support the quality of life considerations and economic viability for Kansas residents and communities.

“These grants will be very complementary with the work we have undertaken through the SPARK-funded Connectivity Emergency Response Grant projects, which will be completed by year-end.” Stanley Adams, Director of the Office of Broadband Development at the Kansas Department of Commerce, said. “Accelerating broadband deployment is critical for all of us, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I’m grateful to Governor Kelly for her commitment to our work in broadband development. This new grant program will be a powerful tool in the ongoing mission to get Kansas fully connected.”

According to Gov. Kelly, the application window will open on Dec. 7 at 4 p.m. She said the intent to apply will be due on Dec. 11 and applications will be due by Jan. 7, 2021, at noon.

For more information on grant guidelines, click here.

Gov. Kelly said a grant application workshop webinar will be offered by the Office of Broadband Development on Dec. 9 at 10:30 a.m. for those interested in applying for the grants.

Registration for the webinar is available here.

According to Gov. Kelly, the new grant program is the latest in her administration to signal continuing efforts to increase connectivity across the state. Previously, she said she announced almost $50 million on Connectivity Emergency Response Grant funds through the SPARK grant program to underserved communities throughout the state. She said 67 broadband projects are designed to address pandemic-related health, education and business challenges.

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