1M Kansans may have inadequate internet

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KSNW) — As the COVID-19 pandemic forced a large populace of people to begin working from home, many people found that their internet speed was not quite adequate for their needs.

Two surveys conducted by researchers at the University of Kansas Institute for Policy & Social Research from Jan. 2021 to Jan. 2022 found that over 1 million Kansans live in a ZIP code where recorded average download speeds are below adequate for things like online education, streaming content, and households with multiple users.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines “broadband” internet at a minimum of 25 Mbps of download and 3 Mbps of upload speeds (commonly referred to as 25/3).

The survey identified areas in Kansas where internet speeds do not meet that standard, as well as other areas that fail to meet a minimum of 100 Mbps of download and 25 Mbps of upload speeds, which is generally referred to as a baseline for average internet use.

“The COVID-19 pandemic showed us that access to broadband is essential for work and education. Our surveys indicate that far too many Kansans do not have access to high-speed internet services. Kansas is in the process of making significant investments in broadband infrastructure that will support future economic growth and development in the state,” Donna Ginther, the principal investigator on the project, said.

Over 6,800 Kansans responded to the surveys. It included a speed test to automatically report the speed of their internet connection, along with a questionnaire about at-home internet access.

Of the 557 Kansas ZIP codes identified among respondents, the study also found that 95 ZIP codes had an average recorded speed falling short of the FCC broadband definition.

These ZIP codes represent 87,000 people or 3% of the total Kansas population.

Data that the survey found corroborates what internet providers report to the FCC, indicating that 2.4% of Kansas live in areas where internet providers report speeds of less than 25/3.

The map also shows that lack of quality internet access is also not bound to rural areas but also affects households in urban and urban-adjacent areas as well.

Along with the surveys, the researchers conducted interviews and focus groups to learn more about internet experience across the state.

The team intends to release the full results of the study later this spring.

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