Officials Move to Bridge Broadband Gaps in Shawnee County, Kan.

After a unanimous vote to move ahead with outreach efforts, the county’s Joint Economic Development Organization will issue a request for information from Internet service providers.

by Tim Hrenchir, Topeka Capital-Journal / June 19, 2018
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(TNS) — After voicing concern last month about the high cost of acquiring high-speed broadband access for Shawnee County, Kan., local officials voted Monday evening to move ahead with trying to accomplish that.

The board of directors of the Joint Economic Development Organization voted 7-0 to conduct outreach to broadband service providers, including doing interviews and putting out a "request for information" from companies interested in helping meet the needs of residents of Shawnee County, including Topeka.

JEDO board members also voted 7-0 to appoint Topeka City Councilman and Deputy Mayor Brendan Jensen and Shawnee County Commissioner Shelly Buhler to review a draft of the request for information and provide feedback to the project team JEDO put together.

The board for JEDO, a body of elected officials who oversee the use of $5 million in annual revenue from a countywide half-cent sales tax, voted last July to contract with Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Tilson Technology Management to explore opportunities to deliver high-speed broadband service here.

JEDO board members voiced concern May 9 after receiving Tilson's report and seeing it estimated the cost at around $128 million. Chris Campbell, Tilson's principal consultant, said the company's next phase would be to talk to providers.

Jensen, who makes his living in the technology field as chief executive officer for Jensen Communications, LLC, acknowledged Monday evening he'd been "rather hard" on the Tilson consultants May 9.

But Jensen said he subsequently worked with them to craft a strategy that involves meeting with broadband providers; learning about providers' needs, what services they can provide and roughly how much those might cost; identifying what incentives might be appropriate; and using those facts to craft and put out a "request for information" from providers.

©2018 The Topeka Capital-Journal, Kan., Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.