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County utilizes ARPA funds and encourages participation in survey to expand broadband service in Doniphan County

By Melanie Davis, The Kansas Chief reporter

Doniphan County Economic Development Director, Leah B. Johnson appeared before the Board of County Commissioners during a regular meeting, Monday, August 1, with Angie Kreider and Julie Bergman of Rainbow Communications.

Johnson informed the board that a $83.5M Capital Projects Fund (CPF) Grant, also called Endpoint Grant, is now available through the State of Kansas which will help expand high speed fiber internet service in rural Doniphan County and proposed that the county apply for the grant as well as partner with Rainbow Communications and Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska who will also apply for funding.

“This is a great opportunity for the underserved and unserved residents who live in the rural areas of the county,” Johnson said.

She sought the board’s approval to support the publishing of a survey on the county’s website and explained that the survey includes a link that will allow each household to take part in an internet speed test. The test will gather proof of the county’s need for broadband service.

“This data is invaluable in that we’ll be able to use it to make our case to apply for this and upcoming grants with the goal of eventually supplying fiber internet service to all of Doniphan County.

She continued, “The more people we can get to take the survey now, the better chance we have at capturing grant dollars to build into our rural areas, which have the most cost prohibitive terrain,” she said. “We all know many citizens who have little or no access to internet for security and emergency systems, distant learning and no option to work from home now, during or even prior to the COVID-19 shutdown. The data from the survey results is the best way to quantify our need into terms that grant applications understand. So we’re calling everyone to participate, especially those living outside of city limits who have little-to-no or poor internet service. Taking this survey and speed test gives you an opportunity to be heard.”

Kreider explained that the role of Rainbow Communications in this process will be to provide the matching grant funds for the application, oversee the construction if grant funds are awarded and serve as the local service provider.

“The State and Federal governments want to fund projects that are geared toward producing solutions for the future. Other than Rainbow, there is no other business in county that provides fiber internet service.”

Taking the survey and speed test on a desktop or laptop computer
The survey and speed test can be completed on a desktop or laptop computer by visiting the county website here. Participants may use their wireless connection or ethernet cable connection.

Taking the survey and speed test on a cell phone, tablet or iPad
The survey and speed test can be completed on any smartphone, tablet or iPad by connecting to the home internet service and visiting the county website here.

Participants are asked not to use cellular data to complete the speed test.

“The speed test is to determine how fast your device connects to the server when you are using your home internet service,” said Kreider. “That’s the information they’re looking for. So we’re asking everyone to be sure they’re connected to their home internet before completing taking the speed test.”

If you don’t have internet access
Residents in rural Doniphan County should still complete the survey and mark the “no internet” option.

The survey is also available in the Economic Development office at the Lower Level of the Doniphan County Courthouse.

The grant application and guidelines were released on July 25 and the application deadline is Aug. 19.

Action taken
Commissioner Wayne Grable made a motion to commit $1.4 million dollars in America Rescue Plan funds to build Highway 36 Corridor, bridging the gap from Troy to Wathena. Hall seconded and the motion carried.

“This corridor is like a backbone,” Johnson said. “Once it’s in place, we can start to build off it to service areas that are unserved or underserved. Basically, most of rural Doniphan County falls under one of those categories according to the definitions of what most grants say.”

Grable made a motion to submit CPF Grant Application for High-Speed Internet Service. Hall seconded and the motion carried.

Grable made a motion to contract Grey Snow Professional Services for consulting services not to exceed $5,000 from the Economic Development fund for internet service grant applications. Hall seconded and the motion carried.

Grable made a motion to approve the county survey and speed test data collection on the county website. Hall seconded and the motion carried.

Grable made a motion to proclaim and approve partnership with Rainbow Communications as sub grantee of infrastructure in CPF Grant Application and the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska. Hall seconded and the motion carried.

“This is fantastic because it’s important show that we’re all working together on this,” Johnson said. “So when they look at our separate applications, they’ll be able to see that together we have phases and plans in place to cover the whole county; they’ll know that we have all the pre-work done and partnerships to make this shared goal happen.”