As Kansas prepares to receive major federal investments in infrastructure, Representative Sharice Davids joined Overland Park-based broadband technology company WANRack to highlight the impact of the bipartisan infrastructure law on high-speed internet access in the Third District. Davids is the only member of the Kansas delegation to vote for these federal funds to address the state's infrastructure needs, including broadband.
Currently, 173,000 Kansans lack home broadband service and 307,000 don't have access to reliable internet. The new law, which Davids voted to pass last month, includes $65 billion to increase access to broadband and connect communities across the nation. That includes flexible grants to states (a minimum of $100 million each) to build out broadband networks in unconnected areas, grant programs aimed at increasing digital literacy, financial aid to help low-income households afford internet access, and "middle mile" projects that connect communities to larger existing networks, improving their access to high-speed internet. This funding will help Kansas reach its stated goal of being in the top 10 of all 50 states for broadband access by 2030.
Companies like Overland Park-based WANRack partner with school districts to build out and modernize their networks, helping more students and teachers access high-speed internet. Davids toured WANRack and heard about their new partnership with Olathe Public Schools to provide a reliable broadband network for students, teachers, and families. The new infrastructure law will allow WANRack to build on the Olathe Public Schools network, the largest IT network of any entity in the Kansas City metropolitan area, to increase access across the county.
"We use our internet connection to work, learn, keep in touch with family, grow a business, get health care, and more--access to high-speed internet is a gateway to opportunity. But across the Third District and across the state of Kansas, that opportunity is not distributed equally," said Davids. "The new bipartisan infrastructure law will make serious strides towards closing the digital divide. I'm proud to have voted to bring this federal investment here and to invest in our future."
"The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a herculean effort by Congress and President Biden to connect the millions of people across Kansas and the United States who lack access to critical high-speed broadband, affecting their daily lives," said WANRack CEO Rob Oyler. "The impacts of this bill will be felt for decades to come, much like the railroad construction in the late 1800s, as we begin to see a significant effort in tackling the needs of unserved and underserved areas along with anchor institutions. WANRack will continue its efforts to be part of the solution and we thank President Biden and Congresswoman Sharice Davids for all their hard work in helping to make this a reality."
Davids voted to pass the bipartisan infrastructure law, which will bring $3.8 billion to Kansas for long-overdue infrastructure projects and put 30,000 Kansas City construction workers on the job. Davids serves as Vice Chair of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and her leadership was key to passing this transformational bill.