Archive for Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Schools, libraries and hospitals urge Kansas Legislature to maintain broadband access, distance learning

March 29, 2011

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School, hospital and library representatives on Tuesday urged legislators to maintain the $10 million per-year Kan-Ed program, which provides broadband access and distance learning.

“Every day, I see the positive impacts of Kan-Ed,” said Diane Trinkle, director of the Nortonville Public Library.

The House General Government Budget Committee was considering House Bill 2390, which would eliminate funding for Kan-Ed.

Created by the Legislature in 2001, Kan-Ed provides broadband to more than 400 public schools, hospitals, libraries and higher education institutions. It is funded through a per-line, per-month fee on phone lines. Most phone customers pay about 25 cents per month for Kan-Ed.

Trinkle said the network helps senior citizens, students, farmers and parents get a wide range of information that they otherwise would have trouble getting.

Hospital representatives said Kan-Ed was crucial in training and in telemedicine, and schools use it to help students get tutoring and access to several databases.

Removal of Kan-Ed would “recreate the digital divide,” said Kansas Board of Regents President and Chief Executive Officer Andy Tompkins.

But telecommunications companies said Kan-Ed was a government-subsidized service that gave it an unfair advantage and competed with private companies.

John Federico, president of the Kansas Cable Telecommunications Association, said Kan-Ed was “another government program that has overreached and lost sight of its original purpose.” He added, “Perhaps it’s time for a little tough love from the Legislature.”

Art Hall, the director of the Center for Applied Economics at the Kansas University School of Business, said Kan-Ed has accomplished its goal and should be replaced by the private sector.

Verizon and Sprint also testified in favor of defunding Kan-Ed.

Free video conferencing systems, such as Skype, are available, Hall said. But those using Kan-Ed said its quality and capabilities were much better than they could get through Skype.

Several committee members expressed concerns with salaries at Kan-Ed; eight employees were making a total of about $760,000.

And others said that perhaps hospitals should be paying for the service.

But Dennis George, chief executive officer of the Coffey Health System in Burlington, said Kan-Ed provides connectivity for educational opportunities that his hospital couldn’t afford because of cuts in Medicaid.

Rep. Joe McLeland, R-Wichita, chairman of the General Government Budget Committee, said the committee would work on the bill Wednesday.

Comments

Hwy50 4 years, 3 months ago

How exactly does it compete with private companies when its mostly run over lines that are leased from private companies? Kan-Ed isn't burying the cable up to the schools, hospitals, etc., they're buying telco services off of whoever is already there (read AT&T). Oh wait, look who complained, every company that wasn't AT&T. I think what they were saying is "It should be provided by us! Err...I mean the private sector."

If Kan-Ed is no longer provided then it's just one more item that schools will have to pay for using the money that the state is providing less and less of.

Common_Sense 4 years, 3 months ago

You're Right!!! And those libraries and hospitals will be going to county commissions asking for the funds to get connected, again! Where will the funds come from....LOCAL TAX BASE!!! (Un-funded Mandates!) It will actually cost us all (through local and state taxes) more in the long run....

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