LAWRENCE — Access to education, health care, public safety and government services increasingly depends on access to affordable, high-speed internet service. It provides small-business owners with access to resources and markets around the world, allows students the opportunity to participate in remote education and connects patients in medically underserved areas to critical health services. The COVID-19 pandemic further underscored the importance of that internet access.
Available data from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) suggest that Kansas residents, especially in rural communities, lack access to stable, high-speed internet service at home. At the same time, current FCC regulations on broadband measurement and reporting limit the quality of data about internet access in the state of Kansas and the United States more generally. Now, through a University of Kansas-led project, Kansas residents can contribute to research on current internet and broadband infrastructure by completing a survey about their internet service.
A team of researchers at the Institute for Policy & Social Research at the University of Kansas surveyed students who attend Kansas Board of Regents colleges and universities about internet access. The team is led by Donna Ginther, Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor of Economics and director of IPSR, and Germaine Halegoua, associate professor of film & media studies.
“The information we’ve received about uneven and inadequate internet access among KBOR students has been valuable, but there are still a lot of geographic areas of Kansas that we know very little about in terms of internet access and options for service provision,” Halegoua said. “Policymakers still lack essential knowledge about internet affordability and quality in rural as well as urban areas. We’re hoping that our statewide survey fills in those gaps.”
Supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration, Ginther and Halegoua are expanding their study of internet access and affordability in Kansas by surveying households statewide on the availability and quality of internet connections across Kansas. The expanded survey aims to gather more detailed information on areas with slow internet speeds along with data on service availability and cost.
The team will share the results of this research with residents, internet service providers and state lawmakers to identify service modifications, infrastructure needs or policy changes that may be required to expand Kansans’ access to affordable, high-speed internet service.
“Reliable data on internet access is essential for making good broadband policy in the state of Kansas,” Ginther said. “Individuals who respond to our survey will have the opportunity to inform broadband policy in Kansas.”
Respond to the survey
The survey takes about 15 minutes and includes an internet speed test to connect survey data with broadband speed information. Interested Kansans should take the survey, from the location of their internet service. The survey can be taken on a smartphone.
Anonymized location data will be mapped to show demand for high-speed internet, to identify service gaps and to clarify the need for infrastructure improvements to expand internet access for Kansas communities.
Questions about the content of the survey can be directed to Donna Ginther. The survey will be open from June to July 2021.
Image: Mapped broadband availability by type of connection helps to illustrate broadband access disparities outside of urban centers in Kansas. Source: Institute for Policy & Social Research, Kansas Statistical Abstract.