Kansas receives $2 million in federal stimulus funds to expand access to Internet in rural areas

? Kansas has received a $2 million federal grant that officials say will help provide access to high-speed Internet service throughout the state.

Lt. Gov. Troy Findley said Monday that the grant also will boost economic recovery, especially in rural areas of the state.

“For rural Kansans, this means economic growth through e-commerce, enhanced services through e-government and improvements to quality of life,” Findley said at a news conference.

The initiative aims to develop a map of the state’s existing broadband infrastructure, and then provide grants and loans to providers to expand broadband service.

The $2 million grant was from the federal American Recovery and Reorganization Act. There is more than $7 billion available under the act to expand broadband throughout the nation, officials said.

Kansas Department of Commerce officials say that Kansas matched the grant with $185,000 from the Information Network of Kansas and $15,000 from the Kansas Farm Bureau, which will be used to pay Connected Nation, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that specializes in broadband issues, and has been contracted to help with mapping and planning the broadband effort.

Brian Mefford, chief executive officer of Connected Nation, said 85 percent of Kansas probably doesn’t have access to high-speed Internet service. And, he said, many Kansans who live in areas that do have broadband, don’t take advantage of it.

“The point is getting Kansans online using the technology,” he said.