If you’d ask me, I’d probably tell you some of the best people in the world live right here in Kansas and the Midwest. Our central region has long been known as the breadbasket of the world. Hard-working, dedicated, perseverant people, committed to family and God. People creating and building a quality of life unsurpassed anywhere else on earth.
Beginning in the early part of the last century unbeknownst to most, mechanization began creeping into jobs and productivity. Results in volume and speed started changing. By the 1930s, although the rural population had a strong density, and small towns were thriving, the population slowly started to decline. Farms and ranches started to get larger. Traffic on Main Street in our towns slowed down. School districts that vowed they’d never play anything but 11-man football, moved their goal posts closer together and are now playing eight-man.
Fast forward to today. Kansas is still the greatest place to live, work and raise a family. Rural areas are thirsty for revitalization. Large metro areas are becoming burdened with urban sprawl and over population. This creates a tremendous strain on schools, medical facilities, law enforcement and infrastructure.
That brings us to broadband. A bridge that spans that abstract distance from rural America to high technology. Kind of like “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel.
Broadband is really a form of an internet connection using a wider frequency for sending and receiving an unimaginable amount of data in tiny fractions of a second. This is how millions of people can be on Facebook and Twitter at the same time, sharing opinions and recipes.
I’ve observed a couple of things during this pandemic. Lots of people have worked from home or remotely utilizing high-speed internet. Some say they are more productive working remotely. At any rate, a change is coming. To me, access to the internet means I can live in Kansas and be connected to the world. Another observation I’ve made is the Facebook group Shop Kansas Farms. I was amazed how many people in Kansas have produce and goods for sale. Eggs, cheese, meat, jelly, and cinnamon rolls, all local and wholesome — and all folks working from home.
Broadband is the bridge. It connects jobs to rural America. Currently broadband is not available in about a third of the country. Just as at one time we made sure every home had electricity we must see that broadband is available to all.
Terry Hobbs is the board president for Kansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. He is also a member of Western Cooperative Electric’s Board of Trustees in WaKeeney.