internet

David Condos / Kansas News Service

GREAT BEND, Kansas — Joey Bahr walks out to the front of his yard along a blacktop county road. He stops in a ditch and points to an orange-and-black sign that marks a buried fiber-optic cable.

But for Bahr, the cable running beneath his feet is off-limits. It’s owned by a neighboring internet service provider and is merely passing through on its way to a nearby town.

“It’s just maddening,” Bahr said. “We’re at the end of the line basically.”

James Ehlers

WICHITA, Kansas — Educators say there was a silver lining when Kansas schools and campuses had to shut down because of the coronavirus: It was a chance to learn how to do remote learning right.

Now with college finals submitted and most K-12 schools in summer vacation mode, educators are reflecting on those two months of online teaching, especially knowing that some universities will have to do it again come fall (Wichita State plans online-only instruction after Thanksgiving).

Here are six things that Kansas professors and teachers say they’ve learned outside of the physical classroom.

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — Rural Kansas communities hope to see roads, internet and taxes addressed in the upcoming 2020 legislative session. But some voters in the state’s southwest corner are worried that these decade-old issues will again take a back seat. 

If this page loaded for you almost instantaneously after you clicked on it, there’s a solid chance you’re not currently living in rural Kansas.

More than 95,000 people, about 3.5 percent of the state’s population, don’t have internet access.

And it’s not just the more rural areas. According to the nonprofit Connected Nation, pockets of suburbs in Kansas City and Dodge City were lacking in high-speed internet coverage.

DODGE CITY — Kansas is bathed in shades of blue that stretch north to south, east to west. That’s not a reference to politics: It’s what the state looks like on the Federal Communications Commission’s Fixed Broadband Deployment map. 

Crawling internet speeds in rural Kansas make trying to sell cattle online exasperating.

Instead of uploading photos and videos of cattle for sale from home, farmer and cattleman Jay Young drives to his parents’ house or into the town of Tribune in far west Kansas where internet speeds are faster.

Young has a broadband connection and says he’s able to create a cattle listing from home, but the slow internet brings on additional work.

Kansas Department of Commerce

Kansas officials will soon have an up-to-date map of broadband service availability across the state as a way to help close the coverage gap.

Ashley Leal parks in front of the Plains, Kansas, Community Library. It’s about to close, but she doesn’t care. She pulls out her blue laptop.

“I’m ... using the Wi-Fi,” Leal says with a laugh.

Her home internet was so slow, she came to the library parking lot. Cars often idle there in the evening while their drivers tap into a plodding, but treasured, link to the internet.

“I’m just thankful that we have somewhere to go,” Leal says.

It’s the only free internet in this small western Kansas town. For many people, it’s the only internet, period. Surprisingly, part of the problem and the solution, for rural areas may lie in Netflix traffic.