Tracking Broadband Availability in Kansas

James Fisher
Managing IT Analyst

Kate Smeltzer
Research Analyst

Heather O’Hara
Principal Research Analyst

Education, precision agriculture, and health care are just a few of the possibilities broadband internet enables, and a lack of connectivity can impact the economic well-being of individuals across the country.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in 2021, 23.36 percent of rural residents lacked fixed broadband with download speeds of 25 megabits per second (mbps) and upload speeds of 3 mbps (25/3) and fourth generation wireless networks (4g) with advertised median speeds of 10/3.

Further, the FCC has acknowledged that past maps are not as granular and accurate as policymakers would like. This means the published statistics on availability could be very different and could potentially impact funding for expansion of broadband.

Broadband Maps

The current broadband availability map is created using FCC Form 477 data. This form is used to collect information on the deployment of broadband and telephone services from service providers at a census block level. If a single home in a census block is reported as being served, then the entire census block will appear as though it was served in some capacity.

The map above shows the number of fixed residential broadband providers (including cable, fiber, fixed wireless, satellite, and ADSL) in a given area of the state. It indicates that over 99.0 percent of the state is served by 3 or more providers offering speeds of at least 25/3.

In 2018, Connected Nation, a nonprofit organization, engaged with the Information Network of Kansas to develop a statewide broadband map. The data collected was more granular than FCC form 477 data, but had other issues, which include:

10 providers refused to participate;
6 providers were non-responsive; and
2 providers submitted granular data for only 1 of the services they offered.

The map is shown here:

At the time, Kansas had 88 broadband providers, and 70 submitted granular/location level data. In instances where a provider did not participate, form 477 data was used. The Connected Nation data shows 17.0 percent of Kansans do not have access to broadband internet with speeds of at least 25/3 when only relying on the provided granular data. If the supplemented Form 477 data is included, this number drops to 3.4 percent.

Changes to Federal Data Collection

In June 2022, the FCC began collecting information from broadband providers about the precise locations where their services are provided. The window to collect this more granular data closed on September 2, 2022.

On September 12, 2022, the FCC opened up a challenge period for states, tribal governments, and local governments to review the data collected. The FCC released pre-production drafts of the new National Broadband Map on November 18, 2022. The Map uses more granular, specific location-level information about broadband service.

The release of this pre-production map also starts the public challenge period. The FCC has encouraged the public to test and submit ISP speeds using the updated FCC Speed Test App.

The pre-production residential services map of Kansas indicates the state is 100.0 percent covered by providers with an advertised speed of at 25/3 or greater. If only examining providers using terrestrial technology (excludes satellite and cellular technology, but includes fixed wireless), the percentage of the state covered by 25/3 or greater is 98.8 percent (see map below). The Office of Broadband Development (Office), within the Kansas Department of Commerce has expressed concerns of the inadequacy of the pre-production map, and noted it overestimates available service.

What This Means for Broadband in Kansas

More accurate maps could help give a better idea where grant funding should be utilized to incentivize the build out broadband infrastructure. These incentives are relevant to businesses considering service in less dense areas, where it is challenging to recover the cost of establishing the service.