According to the Federal Communications Commission, there is no place in Kansas that is not covered by at least one provider offering reliable, high-speed cellphone service.
The FCC released coverage maps, based on information provided by cellphone carriers, showing that all of Kansas has fast, reliable coverage, but the Kansas Farm Bureau is calling foul.
"We know from our own experience with dropped calls and slow downloading and uploading speeds in rural areas of our state," says Rich Felts, president of Kansas Farm Bureau.
KFB challenged the legitimacy of the maps and was granted a waiver to prove to the FCC that there are areas of the state where there is inadequate coverage — becoming the only non-government entity in the U.S. to be granted such a waiver.
At stake is a share of about $4.3 billion in federal funds that have been earmarked to bring service to areas, primarily in rural locations, where there is a lack of unsubsidized 4G Long Term Evolution service.
"Every Kansan deserves high-speed service no matter where they live," Felts says. "From emergency services to advances in educational opportunities to precision agriculture, urban and rural areas alike depend on fast and reliable wireless service."
To make their case, KFB is asking Kansans who experience cellphone reception problems to document that experience, and they have an app to help run the required speed tests to submit to the FCC.
Speed tests can be run by downloading the FCC Speed Test App from the Google Play store or the Apple App Store. Install the app on your phone, then turn off Wi-Fi and enable GPS or Location Services. Run the test between 6 a.m. and midnight. You must be outside to run the test.
Once you have downloaded and installed the App, you can run a speed test by clicking "run now." If you get a pop-up that says "Data Cap Exceeded," click OK. If you receive a pop-up asking you to enable location services, select "Allow." Select "All" when asked what type of test you want to run. The test is complete when the spinning icon disappears. On an iPhone, press "Done." On Android phones, press the "Back" arrow.
To send in your results at the end of the day, click on the icon at the top right of your phone. On iPhone, that will be a gear. On Android, it is three dots. Select "Export Results" and hit OK. On Android phones, you will need to export to email. You will be prompted to select the email you want to send from if you have more than one email account on your phone. When the new email screen appears, send the file to [email protected].
You can find instructions at kfb.org/connectingkansas. You can run several tests at different locations during the day and send them all together in the evening.
KFB legislative affairs liaison Ryan Flickner says KFB will validate all the speed tests and send them to the FCC.
"We haven't really set a deadline for getting all the tests done," Flickner says. "Initially, the FCC had an Aug. 23 deadline, but that was extended by 90 days so we have until November to submit. However, we are urging everyone to start running and sending speed tests right away. "
Flickner says that many Kansans already know what areas have insufficient coverage because they encounter them regularly.
The challenge to the FCC map pertains only to wireless cellphone coverage, not to areas with no wired broadband coverage, although Kansas has underserved areas in that system as well.