Ideatek

Kansas Department of Commerce Broadband Partnership Adoption Grant Update

Buhler, Kan., Oct. 8, 2020 – The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly increased the disparity in the digital divide between those with access to connectivity and those without. Connectivity inequity became painfully evident as the world went remote and moved to online schooling, telehealth, and working from home. Many students, employees, and families did not have the access and technology they needed to be successful. The push to provide broadband equity as a basic resource became critical.

IdeaTek has been fighting for broadband equity for over 10 years with a mission of Internet Freedom for all. When the State of Kansas dedicated $10 million for the Broadband Partnership Adoption Grants, IdeaTek seized the opportunity to reach beyond those who can afford internet and connected devices to help bridge the digital divide in Kansas.

Through this grant, IdeaTek increased access to free public Wi-Fi hotspots, provided 250 devices to low-income families, and provided free internet to qualifying low-income households for one year.

Free Public Wi-Fi
For many households without adequate internet access at home, public Wi-Fi access has been a digital lifeline during the pandemic.

IdeaTek has 22 free public Wi-Fi hotspots throughout its service area. In addition, IdeaTek partnered with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism to deploy free Wi-Fi hotspots within areas of Cheney State Park and Sand Hills State Park to expand high-speed broadband to locations that can be easily accessed by the public.

These locations account for 76 total access points that will be free, and available to the public. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, these locations will provide internet access to over 14,130 low-income individuals in the immediate area.

Free Wi-Fi is especially helpful for low-income and transient Kansans who may find themselves in mobile living situations as a cost-savings alternative. Access to quality, consistent connectivity allows everyone to work, attend school, or take part in other remote activities without disruption. In addition, Wi-Fi-enabled public state parks also offer a safe, socially distanced option for physical activities that will keep Kansans healthy, while providing connectivity at the same time.

You can find a comprehensive list of locations at www.ideatek.com/publicwifi.

Free Internet to Low-Income Individuals

In order to help address the barrier of cost of service to low-income individuals, IdeaTek worked with nearly 40 school districts throughout existing and new coverage areas to locate low-income individuals who needed internet service.

Amanda Stoney and her family are one example from the Fairfield USD 310 school district in Arlington, Kansas. When Stoney moved her six children to the small town of Arlington to pursue a smaller, better school system, she didn’t realize good connectivity in rural areas wasn’t a given. She had to improvise as her children needed to complete their online homework amid times of remote learning due to the COVID pandemic. Stoney often used her phone to provide her children with an internet hotspot, which was expensive and unreliable.

Relief was in sight as the IdeaTek crew began installing equipment to connect Stoney’s home to high-speed fiber optic internet, thanks to this grant which provides free internet for a year, and one free device to those that qualify for the federal Lifeline program.

“We are excited because we will actually have internet and the kids will be able to stream when they need to for school,” Stoney said. “The computer will be nice for the kids when they have homework because there is a lot of work that gets sent home, and they couldn’t do it because it is on the computer.”

In addition, to broaden the reach, IdeaTek worked with local nursing homes to provide Medicaid recipients free internet. Mennonite Friendship Communities of South Hutchinson and Sunshine Meadows Retirement Community of Buhler received Wi-Fi coverage for facilities that house Medicaid recipients.

Free Chromebook to Low Income Households

Through this grant, IdeaTek committed to providing 250 quality devices to low-income families. In addition to providing a free device to those who qualified for free internet, IdeaTek partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of Hutchinson. The Boys and Girls Club works with hundreds of children and families throughout Hutchinson to develop character and leadership skills while promoting academic success and healthy lifestyles.

“Within days we were able to provide over 100 devices to Boys and Girls Club families. Some of these parents were in tears saying they didn’t have a Christmas present for their child before this opportunity,” said Lance Patterson, Director of Operations, Boys and Girls Club of Hutchinson. “Thank you to IdeaTek and the Kansas Department of Commerce for providing essential needs to families during this time.”

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