The initiative began when KFB was recently granted a waiver to challenge the coverage maps in Kansas and the studies done by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC is providing $4.53 billion over the next decade to rural areas with broadband service deficiencies and state and local organizations are working toward bringing some of the funding to Kansas.
"We need to speak out and be loud and let them know that their studies and information is incorrect, and we still have a serious issue here that needs to be addressed," said Rob Seeber, president and CEO of Kansas Grain and Feed Association (KGFA), which serves 99 percent of the commercial grain storage in the state.
KGFA is just one organization KFB has reached out to in order to reach their members and ask them to provide data on cell phone coverage in their areas. Anyone with an iPhone or Android device can download the FCC Speed Test App and run as many tests in as many locations as they want between 6 a.m. and midnight. At the end of the day, users are asked to send the results to KFB through the app.
According to KFB, over 500 usable speed tests had been received by mid-June and over 200 of those tests reported deficiencies.
The need expands past the expected areas of rural Kansas, as both the KFB and KGFA attest to the lack of coverage across the state for their members and the general public. Both Seeber and Director of KFB, Harry Watts, have experienced lack of service in more urban areas like Manhattan or cities surrounding Topeka. During Seeber's work across the state, he has seen dropped bars in all four corners and everywhere in between.
"It's definitely a need in that area [agriculture] and the thing of it is, we're using more and more bandwidth all the time--it's not going away," said Jason Smith, CEO of Rainbow Communications, a local service provider in Northeast Kansas. "It's just part of the ever-changing landscape we have, and it's definitely a need for it out in rural America."
KFB's focus is on their members with livelihoods in rural areas in which they farm. Broadband service has become crucial for farmers to succeed, such as weather updates, applications that determine the level of water in soil or amount of fertilizer needed and communicating with retailers and customers purchasing their products.
"This is about production agriculture," said Watts. "This is about allowing them to conduct their businesses and be able to use the technology available to them, as well as improve the quality of life of the members and families living in rural Kansas."
In addition to the need for services in rural Kansas for their jobs, individuals and families depend on access to broadband connections for educational enhancements, health care and communication.
"From weather alerts to just overall communication--sending emails or text messages--they're things we take advantage of and grow accustomed to in urban areas," said Seeber. "In rural areas, sometimes you just have to make sure you're on top of the right hill and sometimes there's not a lot of hills to find."
Submissions for the FCC Speed Test does not currently have a deadline. Anyone across the state is welcome to submit as many tests as they choose to take.