High-speed broadband internet access is the unseen power that connects our electronic devices to the software programs and applications we use in our businesses, schools, hospitals and daily lives. For those of us in areas where access is readily available, often by more than one company, it’s a tool we rely on and expect to be available. What many may not realize is that it’s not readily available to all in Kansas, and that’s a problem.

Providing broadband capabilities is the rural electrification of the 21st century and development across all miles of Kansas needs to be a top priority. Fortunately, the Legislature adopted a broadband task force that’s meeting over the coming months to develop a plan for the legislature’s consideration in the 2019 session.

In testimony offered, Daniel Friesen, chief innovation officer of IdeaTek, a rural community-based internet and voice services provider, shared with legislators that Kansas ranks 40th in the union for overall connectivity. Further, he reported 8 percent of our farmers only have dial-up access, and 29 percent still have no internet access at all. …

Health care providers in urban areas are connecting their specialty physicians to folks in rural areas who can’t travel three hours for a checkup, but this is only possible in places where the broadband capacity can support the technology. Farmers need the connectivity to access cloud sharing services and run the sophisticated GPS systems needed for precision agriculture operations. Entrepreneurs rely on the internet to support their online platforms. …

As we enter this political season and candidates knock on your door asking for your vote, ask them about their commitment to expanding broadband. Will they make its implementation a priority? When the task force brings forth their recommendations next session, will they act? …

We look forward to following the progress of the Broadband Taskforce in the coming months and seeing the implementation of their ideas so that urban and rural Kansans can access the technology that powers our day-to-day lives. In the meantime, we hope political candidates at all levels will make broadband access part of their platform and bring to work a commitment to its expansion in all underserved areas of Kansas.

— The Topeka Capital-Journal