Voters ages 50 and older overwhelmingly agree that elected officials in Kansas should work to ensure that high-speed internet is available to all Kansans regardless of where they live, according to a new AARP survey.
The survey also shows widespread use of the internet, including a significant share of voters who report increased home internet use now compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, some voters—especially those in rural areas— report that access to high-speed internet is a problem in their local community and that quality, cost, and/or availability have limited their home internet use.
“High-speed internet is a necessity,” said Judy Bellome, Volunteer President for AARP Kansas. “It can reduce the risk of social isolation, help communities stay connected, and provide access to important supportive services such as telehealth and online learning.”
“Access to the digital world and high-quality broadband is something our cities consistently list as a challenge for their communities, especially those in rural areas,” said Erik Sartorius, Executive Director of Kansas League of Municipalities. “The League works to further the quality of life in Kansas cities and we know, for communities to advance and thrive, broadband infrastructure is critical. The economic, social, and cultural vitality of Kansas cities is dependent on high-speed internet access.”
“Ensuring all Kansans have access to high quality, affordable broadband is critical for our state’s growth, and we are working with local communities to increase investments where needed so we can close the digital divide once and for all,” said Stanley Adams, director of the Kansas Office of Broadband Development.
Sartorius and Adams joined AARP Kansas Volunteer State President Judy Bellome for a Telephone Townhall meeting on October 14 to discuss the results of the survey and to take questions from Kansans across the state about their experiences with high-speed internet access. To listen to the TTH recording, click HERE.
Much of the survey points to widespread reliance on the internet:
- Nine in 10 (93%) respondents use the internet, with nearly all (96%) using it at home.
- Compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than one-third (36%) home internet users say that their household is now using the internet more at home.
- Home internet users have used the internet during the pandemic to address important needs such as paying bills (69%) and obtaining healthcare or health information (61%).
The survey finds rural areas face more challenges:
- One in three (35%) Kansas voters ages 50-plus say that access to high-speed internet is a problem in their local community, including more than half (53%) of voters in rural areas. Rural internet users (35%) are also more likely than nonrural users (29%) to say that their home internet use has been affected by availability.
- Rural internet users are more likely than nonrural users to experience problems when doing something that requires a lot of bandwidth (26% of rural vs. 19% of nonrural) or when multiple users try to use the internet (26% vs. 16%).
- The types of home internet connections reported by rural internet users contrast sharply with the types of connections reported by nonrural users. While 72% of nonrural home internet users have a cable or fiber optic internet connection, just 35% of rural home internet users do. Instead, satellite (13% of rural vs. 2% of nonrural) and fixed wireless (9% vs. 2%) are more common among rural home internet users.
- Overall, three-fourths (75%) of home internet users do not report having a fiber optic internet connection—typically the fastest service option—at home, with a lack of availability being a major reason. Rural internet users without fiber at home are more likely than their nonrural counterparts to cite lack of availability (64% of rural users v. 35% of nonrural users).
The survey’s key findings show strong support for action to expand high-speed internet access:
- Three out of four (76%) voters agree that elected officials in Kansas should work to ensure that high-speed internet is available to all Kansans.
- Two-thirds (66%) of voters support the development of partnerships among state and local governments, internet service providers, and local nonprofits and businesses to bring affordable, high-speed internet to more of Kansas.
- More than six in 10 (64%) voters support state action to offer incentives to internet providers to expand high-speed internet service to rural areas that do not currently have access.
The full report is available at www.aarp.org/kshighspeedinternet
The AARP telephone survey was conducted among 1,202 registered voters ages 50 plus in Kansas. Forty percent of the respondents were reached on a mobile phone. The survey was administered by Alan Newman Research between May 11, 2021 and May 25, 2021. For more information, contact S. Kathi Brown of AARP Research at firstname.lastname@example.org. Media inquiries should be directed to Mary Tritsch at email@example.com.