TOPEKA - Two entrepreneurs Kansas who have been - in Daniel Friesen’s phrase “forging ahead” to expand broadband in the state - told the Kansas Senate Commerce Committee Friday to include their voice on a new task force.
The proposed 17-member task force is weighted toward government and industry associations. Not only are Buhler’s Friesen, chief innovation officer and managing member of IdeaTek Telcom, and Mike Bosch, Baldwin City, founder and chief executive officer of RG Fiber, not part of the task force, neither testified when House Bill 2701 had a hearing las month before a House committee.
When the bill came before the Senate Commerce Committee, they were both there to testify and urge the bill be amended.
Consider adding an 18th seat for the innovators and entrepreneurs, Bosch asked.
“Include independent competitive providers like ourselves which are out in front, not just talking about this stuff, but actually doing it, forging ahead with new rural deployments every day,” Friesen said in his testimony. “As an underdog, as a small Kansas-based competitor in an industry often dominated by giant national corporations, we do not always get a voice in these decisions, and that might be because we often take a different view,” Friesen said, but it’s a view that needs to be heard, he said.
“We would first submit our state’s lack of progress is not because of a lack of funding. Over $3.8 billion dollars in subsidies have been provided in Kansas over the last 20 years with tens of millions of dollars continuing each year,” Friesen said.
There are ways to expand broadband without pumping money into subsidies, Friesen said, adding, “We’re doing it.”
Friesen cited concens including a failure to invest in long-term solutions, a failure to support competition, and a lack of cooperation and a lack of creativity.
Committee Chairman Julia Lynn, R-Olathe, complimented Friesen for a “very succinct” presentation from “someone on the ground.”
At one point in responding to questions, Friesen referred to the “bad guys” who aren’t doing their job. That piqued Senators’ interest, but he declined to elaborate in public. He didn’t want to hurt his chances to get a seat on the task force, he said.
John Federico, president of the Kansas Cable Telecommunications Association, testified for the task force bill and told the Senate committee he was “so impressed” with Friesen, and Friesen “needs to be part of the conversation.”
The hearing is scheduled to continue Tuesday, with testimony from representatives of Wichita State University. No action was taken Friday by the committee. Several members were absent, including State Sen. Larry Alley, R-Winfield, who was traveling with Lt. Gov. Tracey Mann Friday, which included a stop in Hutchinson.