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Survey seeks input on digital divide from Kansas parents of school-age children

By: - September 24, 2021 12:48 pm
University researchers working to produce a detailed map of Kansas' broadband access, quality and affordability are encouraging parents of school-age children to participate in a 10-minute survey to assist with the project. (Getty Images)

University researchers working to produce a detailed map of Kansas broadband access, quality and affordability are encouraging parents of school-age children to participate in a 10-minute survey to assist with the project. (Getty Images)

TOPEKA — University researchers working on a project to document the availability and quality of internet connections across Kansas have homework for K-12 parents.

The assessment of broadband access and affordability funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce began in March, with researchers documenting unmet needs and developing a map of internet speeds by ZIP code.

So far, faculty from the University of Kansas and the University of Michigan involved with the project lack sufficient input from the parents of elementary and high school students. It is likely these families, especially in rural areas, have been significantly affected by lack of coverage or slow transmission speeds at home.

“We are hoping to reach parents and rural families in particular,” said Germaine Halegoua, an associate professor of communication at UM. “We know that agricultural enterprises and rural communities are often impacted by limited service options. Their concerns are not currently well-represented in our survey, but we need to hear their concerns and experiences.”

Donna Ginther, a KU professor of economics, said individuals could complete the survey through KU’s Institute for Policy and Social Research. Kansans can take the 10-minute survey at the IPSR website. Kansans who lack home internet service are invited to contact researchers, via email or otherwise, with their experiences.

Existing information on broadband access in Kansas has historically relied on self-reporting by dozens of service providers. That system hasn’t delivered enough detailed information to understand differences in availability and service speed by neighborhood. In addition, that approach hasn’t provided state’s policymakers with insight into broadband affordability.

The Kansas Health Institute has reported that one in four Kansas children under age 18 lacked adequate access to affordable, high-speed internet service.

The Federal Reserve of Kansas City and the Kansas Health Foundation suggested there was an urban-rural discrepancy in terms of internet access. Nearly half of residents in the 11-county Flint Hills region of Kansas lack reliable access to the internet. The best-served regions of the state are in Johnson County.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

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