There aren’t many silver linings to the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s obvious.


That being said, rural Kansas getting better access to the internet is one of them and it’s not one to be taken lightly.


For years, parts of the Sunflower State have looked and longed for better access.


Thanks to CARES Act funding, the state is making some headway getting parts of the state finally hooked up to a stable and affordable internet connection via a $50 million investment.


In Atchison County, they’re building quicker connections to help Atchison General Hospital and aid in its expansion into Horton in nearby Brown County. There’s potential for so much more.


Projects in Garden City, Dodge City and Liberal have been identified. But the clock is ticking.


The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Andrew Bahl reported Sunday the Department of Commerce will render a decision on which projects will receive grant money by mid-September. After that it’s game on for those approved to get them finished by the end of the year.


Because like all other CARES Act expenditures, the federal relief funds must be spent by Dec. 30. However, unlike other line items, like purchasing personal protective equipment, broadband projects require extensive planning and construction.


Bahl also reported anywhere from 20% to 30% of the state’s rural population lacks access to basic broadband service.


Now is the time to act. We need a comprehensive statewide effort if this is to be successful.


Plenty of groups have ideas on how to go about this.


Mary Jane Stankiewicz, executive director of the Communications Coalition of Kansas, called it a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity.


Brent Legg, ConnectedNation’s vice president of government affairs, suggested selecting projects in relatively populated areas to make the biggest impact.


Our response to these ideas is an emphatic yes and we’d like to challenge them to find a way to work together.


Lots of different folks from large companies like Cox Communications and AT&T to smaller companies like IdeaTek in Buhler and Pioneer Communications in Ulysses all have vested interests in seeing this project work. Let’s find a way to get the stakeholders to pitch in and build this critical infrastructure.


In our view there is room for everyone to have a win-win. We’ve seen it work in Pittsburg where competition was introduced several years ago and now every household in Pittsburg has access to 1 gigabyte internet service at home.


The long-term goal should be to make all of Kansas closer to what Pittsburg has. In the short term, however, let’s get everyone connected.