Ask Me Anything! With Jade Piros de Carvalho, Director of the Kansas Office of Broadband Development

Ask Me Anything! With Jade Piros de Carvalho, Director of the Kansas Office of Broadband Development Banner Image

Mar 17, 2023


About Our Distinguished Guest

Jade Piros de Carvalho is no stranger to government work. For the past decade, Jade has served the City of Hutchinson, Kansas, in several capacities, including representative, vice-mayor, and currently, mayor.

Despite serving on the city council as mayor, Jade also serves the state of Kansas as the director of the office of broadband development -- a position she had held for the past seven months.

Jade holds a Master of Public Administration in public policy analysis from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Wichita State University. 

Event Transcript

Sarah Lai Stirland: Hi everyone, for the Broadband community, I'm Sarah Lai Stirland, and this is the community's Ask Me Anything! With Jade Piros de Carvalho. Jade is the director of the Kansas Office of Broadband Development, and I'm super excited to have her here. Jade, welcome.

Jade Piros De Carvalho: Thank you so much for having me, Sarah. This is really fun. I watch these a lot and it's such an honor to try to bring some level of value to the conversation because I certainly learn a lot from these conversations, so really honored to be a part of this.

Sarah: Of course. So, Jade, everyone, brings a unique perspective to her job. She's probably the only Broadband director who's been a mayor, mayor of Hutchinson, Kansas, a city of about 40,000 people, and who's also worked as an executive at an internet service provider called IdeaTek. And she's a mother of a five-year-old. Is it a five year old boy or girl? 

Jade: A girl, yeah.

Sarah: Girl. Right. And as I like to joke, if she ever decided to write an autobiography in her own words, the title might be, all you've got to do is sleep for four hours.

Sarah: And Jade started as a director of the Office of Broadband Development last June. And, one of her first orders of business was channeling, I think, one of her first was channeling just over $143 million of capital project funding from the Treasury Department. And like other Broadband directors, Jaden offers a busy drawing up plans for the Commerce Department's, Broadband Equity Access and Deployment grants, the BEAD grants, and the Commerce Department sent over a Christmas present of $5.6 million at the... Around Christmas, to fund this effort. So there's a ton to talk about.

Sarah: So Jade, can we start off by just giving us... Giving our audience a roundup of like a big picture, overview of how you are organizing all this funding. I'm sure I haven't got it all. There's order of and there's other things. So could you please give us just an overview of the funding buckets, how you're organizing it, and then the part B of the question is how are your office is structured? 

Jade: Yeah, great. No, thanks for that question. So, even though we're a relatively young office, we were just established in fall of 2020. I like to say we're a toddler, we're about two years old. We have the advantage of having, administered several different grant programs, a statewide grant program, two rounds of a $5 million annual state statewide grant. We did some CARES Act funding, that was $50 million in infrastructure, 10 in digital equity. And then we did 83 and a half in CPF infrastructure funding at the end of last year. And so, we at least have some sort of, like, we get iteratively better with each of these grant programs, right? We see what works and what doesn't. So, really grateful that we got those CPF infrastructure dollars out the door before we had to deal with BEAD planning.

Jade: So right now our focus is really on digital equity and BEAD planning. We're going out across the state to every corner of the state. We have 105 counties. We can't go to all of them, but we're trying to go to at least 30 and all four tribal entities in person. And following those up with additional covered population meetings, if we find that people from covered populations weren't into those face-to-face meetings, we're also doing virtual meetings. So, our emphasis has really been on the planning phase, but we also just like two weeks ago at Net Inclusion, it was announced that Kansas is the first state to get the CPF 1B digital connectivity technology funds. So we have about $15.5 million that will be spinning up a program for devices and free wi-fi.

Jade: We plan to launch that program, yet this spring. And also, like a lot of states, a lot of states have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars in their state and local fiscal recovery funds through orbit for Broadband. Kansas was not one of those states, but just last month did decide to put $30 million toward an infrastructure program for Broadband grants. And so in about two weeks we'll be launching that program that we're gonna model very closely on our Capital Projects Fund, so that we can alleviate any kind of inconsistencies and make it easier for providers. So in the next two months, we'll be doing the $30 million infrastructure program modeled after Capital Projects Fund. We did a sliding scale on that, we can talk about that later if you'd like. And the Digital Connectivity Technology program, through Capital Projects Fund. And then we'll also be doing our statewide $5 million infrastructure program, late summer, early fall. So our goal is to get all of these programs administered, these kind of statewide and treasury programs, administered before the BEAD funding becomes available because that's gonna be a lot to do.

Sarah: How do you keep track of it all? 

Jade: Well, yeah, that's a challenge. I think it's easier for us as an office because we map it out and we have deliverables and timelines for everything. But my main concern is making it really transparent and accessible to eligible entities because each of these programs have different guidelines, right? And a lot of that is not necessarily within our control. So with treasury, at least we can remain consistent with our CPF and our state local fiscal recovery fund program. We can do a sliding scale. We have the same like speed thresholds, but with our statewide program, that is still based on this kind of obsolete definition of broadband of 25/3. So that program's available for any area only in areas that lack 25/3 service. And it's only...

Sarah: Wait, hold on. You're saying the FCCs definition of Broadband is obsolete.

Jade: I'm sorry.

Jade: But it is. I think everybody kind of recognizes that, and I mean, hats off to the rural utility service, the OSDA for being the first to recognize that and to change their grant program, their reconnect program to a higher threshold. They used to be tier one. My word that's...

Sarah: Yeah. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you, but that obviously has implications for BEAD funding, right? Because of...

Jade: Yes.

Sarah: The law's definitions of what broadband is, which is still 25/3.

Jade: I know. Sarah you're so right. You're right.

Sarah: Well. I'm just wondering. I'm sorry, I don't mean to hijack the conversation, but I'm just wondering what that means for when you do get... When you are doing your planning and you are submitting your plan to the NTIA, the National Telecommunications Information Administration in the Commerce Department, how does that view, I mean you don't mince your words as my colleague, Drew Clark's, profile set... He put up this profile this morning, and I read it and I thought, boy Jade doesn't mince her words, does she? 

Jade: I know. In my defense, I just read that and I'm like, oh my goodness. Like that is an editorial I wrote far before I was in the public sector.

Sarah: Well, basically, Jade reiterated, she's held strong, held this viewpoint that, is there 100 megabits per second symmetrical? Is that what you think the definition of broadband should be? 

Jade: That's what I personally think it should be, but that's a decision way above my pay grade and BEAD is designating that as kind of a 100 by 20. I know they're saying 25/3 is the floor, but I think it's an office. We should make our programs as consistent as possible to eliminate confusion. And so we have been very upfront with all of our grant programs that we will prioritize applications that provide the highest level of service, the most scalable level of service. Look, we're looking, this is our moonshot, right? We're not gonna get 42.5 billion in five or six years. We need to look at technologies that will be scalable to the needs, not just for today but to the future. And so, although we have maybe a floor of a 100 by 20 or 25 by 3, because our programs are so popular and so wildly over-subscribed, we will always prioritize the ones that provide the highest level of technology for scalability.

Sarah: Okay. Thank you. That's a very good clarification. Well, if people want to see what I'm talking about, they should just go ahead and read that profile that Drew put together. That's pretty good. So anyway, Jade, I apologize for interrupting, but that's quite... I think that's an important insight that we just unearthed that you're going to prioritize applications with higher speeds. I mean, a 100 symmetrical, I assume or anything higher than 25/3. So.

Jade: We look toward gig symmetrical for, I mean, again, we have enough applications that we're able to select those who are investing in the highest level of technology for future scalability. Sarah we really need to be careful to learn from the mistakes of previous programs that may be under invested in technology.

Sarah: Do you wanna say anything more about that? 

Jade: Well, look, we have a couple decades of experience in federal programs that made a promise to rural America and did not deliver. And I'm just saying, let's just learn from those mistakes and put into policy and practice processes and programs that don't repeat those mistakes and don't leave those communities out to dry.

Sarah: Okay. So speaking of not making mistakes and forging selling forth, so tell us a bit about the structure of your office. I was reading your newsletter, just from yesterday, and it sounds like you've got some new staff as well. So, I think, tell us a bit about your office, how it's structured and how you can help local governments and providers.

Jade: Yes. So last summer we had one to two people. We are in office of one to two, and now we have been fortunate to be able to staff up to six, and in April we will be at seven. So we will have a deputy director and our deputy director comes from the legislature. So he has a lot of political acumen, which is really important in this effort. We have an outreach manager, stakeholder manager and she comes from a really... She comes from a university environment where she did all of the continuing education for city and county clerks, which has proven to be a really great asset in our outreach efforts. We have a digital equity program manager who comes from the KC metro area and has a lot of, just a great background, lots of skills. We have a Broadband program manager who just started a couple weeks ago. He comes from the Nebraska Broadband Office, but is a lifelong Kansas and wanted to come home.

Jade: And then we just hired a GIS analyst in January, January 9th like four days before the deadline. He is extraordinary as well, and then we are bringing on an infrastructure program manager in April who comes from our research and education network. So, we're just really really lucky to have such highly skilled passionate people in the office especially kind of building from scratch. So, I'm really excited for the future and for our mission because the key to success is hiring people who are a lot smarter than you, Sarah. And so I've been really lucky to do that.

Sarah: That's great. So there's $15 million in treasury digital connectivity funds that you just received. It says that it's going to fund high-speed internet connection devices and digital skills training. Can you tell us a little bit about, if I was interested, if I'm a local government or someone on the local level who wants to apply for this or like if I run a library or something and I want to get some of this money to start a program, what should I do? And when should I do it? 

Jade: Yeah, that's a great question. So we had our program plan approved by the treasury but we don't yet have our guidelines mapped out because the thing about a device distribution program is that the devices aren't actually owned by the end recipient. And so we wanna make sure we set up the program for success and partner with agencies like libraries and schools that already have a system in place for rental or distribution of devices because the sub-recipients have to own and track them. So we're still working around how that's going to work. We're also partnering with Education Superhighway. I don't know if you're familiar with that nonprofit.

Sarah: Yeah.

Jade: But they're a wonderful group out of DC and as they have lent a lot of ideas and talent and resources to State Broadband Offices, which is really important for offices like ours who are kind of starting from a very small staff. And that added capacity is really great. And they have helped us identify low-income multi-dwelling units that could benefit from free WiFi. So we want that to be included in our program guidelines and again we hope to launch that program late spring.

Jade: So, we're thinking about May and so we'll have more details to come, and we originally assumed it would be a competitive grant only and now we're thinking, do we need to include part of it that is like direct grants to certain sub-recipients in covered populations? Or like when we do... When we've been doing our tribal consults for instance, as part of our digital equity planning.

Jade: They mentioned, a couple of them mentioned the desire to like have a computer, kind of a computer set up in their community center for people to come in and learn digital skills and then maybe they could have devices that they could run out. And so do we wanna make that competitive? Or do we wanna just do a direct grant? Those are all conversations we're having. We feel really excited that we were the first to be offered those funds and now we're like, we gotta scramble and make sure we get them out the door to work for Kansas as quickly as possible. But we just wanna make sure that the program is reaching the people who need it the most.

Sarah: I see. Okay, so I'm going to... I have a few of my own questions, but I also want to ask questions from the community. Another interesting thing from the newsletter was, you talked a little bit about going out on your tour, your listening tour and the things that you discovered. Can you tell us a little bit more about that, the community engagement part and what you discovered? 

Jade: Yeah, I would just say that like I feel like this is the best thing our office has ever done and I really wanna just recognise NTIA for making local consults such an important and critical piece of this funding effort and this universal connectivity effort because you absolutely need to get on the ground and hear from people and hear their pain points. And so yeah, we, Kansas is a very agricultural state and we're also a very rural state. I was just doing some analysis last week for the legislature on how difficult it is to make a business case viable for rural broadband expansion. And we only have seven out of 105 counties that have a population greater than 100 per square mile. And over 50%, I think it's like 56% of our counties have a population of less than seven per square mile.

Jade: And so when we go out into these communities we hear a lot about access and its impact on the agricultural sector and farmers who can't download data to their equipment and can't engage in markets in real-time which has a detrimental effect on their operations. And we hear less on the digital equity side, right now we're hearing a lot on there's just so many access gaps, but stories like we had one story there was a woman who said, "Our library, it's a very tiny community, is open four hours a week or four hours a day four days of the week." Now I work remotely and when I am at my data cap, I have to go to the library. And so they've like positioned their routers so that like people can come to their parking lot and we all go to the parking lot and work and I always have company.

Jade: And so those are the kind of stories you hear, every Broadband director has stories like that. This is not unique to Kansas, but it really speaks to the need for we gotta do better. We gotta get this infrastructure to people's homes so they're not forced to do that. And this tour has just been, it's so eye-opening.

Sarah: So do you go into... I don't wanna get stuck in the minutiae, but when you go on these, how did you pick these 30 places that you are going to, and do you just sort of take notes about who said what for reference when you get back, how does that work? For example, the farmers who can't get the data, are they... Do they count as an anchor institution or how do they... What kind of bucket do they fall into? 

Jade: They would probably fall under rural inhabitants as far as covered population. But what we do is in Kansas we have nine economic development districts. And we try to choose at least three locations and each EDD and all... And then plus four tribes. And then again, when... So that's how we chose kind of the areas we're gonna do three in each area.

Sarah: Okay.

Jade: Now, where we went in each economic development district was kind of informed by those who had reached out, like Peabody, a community of about 1,000 their library director really engaged with us, came to our summit, our statewide summit in January is like, please hold a meeting in the library. And I'm like, okay, we're gonna go in the library basement and We're holding these meetings from 5:30 to 7:00 mostly so that people can attend.

Jade: And we had a great turnout, we had three dozen people in this tiny, tiny community, because the need is great. Now, one thing we've noticed when we first started this is we'd go to a community and we'd hear from people, but we try to have an eye for who isn't there so we went to Emporia Kansas. Emporia Kansas we had a great turnout, lots of great conversation from farmers, but what was missing is there were no Hispanic attendees. And that is one community that's like 25 to 28% Hispanic, and so we're like, okay, that's not acceptable. We're gonna have to come back around and meet the Hispanic population where they're at. And so we're in the process after each meeting, we kind of have a debrief and like, what are we missing, who wasn't at the table? And we'll circle back around to try to meet them where they're at.

Jade: And it's not a one and done, right? And then we're also following up with like I said, some virtual meetings for organisations that cover covered populations that support covered populations and statewide survey through network television so like communities that can't stream, they have three free channels. We're doing ads on those three free channels for a phone number and email and other things to fill out a survey. So as far as the questions we ask, we're contracting with one of our regent universities, Wichita State University, they have Public Policy and Management Centre, which has a real kind of expertise around community organising and feedback. And so they we're having the same facilitated conversation in every meeting so that we can be consistent and gather that info, and then we're also having a post survey that they can fill out either on paper or online right there or at home and send it in, and then, we'll aggregate all that data as well. That's kind of how we're going about it. I'd be curious to know how other states are, 'cause we're all just figuring it out as we go, right? 

Sarah: Yeah, I think that it sounds pretty comprehensive what you're doing and I haven't heard this strategy of, looking out for people who haven't showed up. I wanted to just quickly follow up on...

Jade: Sure.

Sarah: Circling back, if you've noticed that a significant proportion of the population of Hispanic people who live locally aren't there, how do you follow up? How do you get them to show up or how do you reach out to them? What did you do? 

Jade: Well, yeah, that's a great question, and the strategy is different in every community. So for instance, Emporia, they have a large meat packing plant and there is a union and that meat packing plant, and we have connections with union organisers, and so we will be reaching out to them and trying, maybe we do the meeting at the actual work location, and we anticipate this problem will happen when we get to Western Kansas because we have a large, not just Hispanic population, but refugee population and why on earth would they feel safe to come to a government led meeting to have their voices heard. We need to be really aware of those dynamics.

Jade: And so working closely with the organisations that serve refugees and serve these covered populations is key because I'll be honest, I thought we had it all figured out and we'd done all the channels and we'd done all the different translations for the meetings, and then we show up like literally to our first meeting and there's massive gaps in who attends.

Jade: And it's really tempting to just check it off. But you can't do that if you really wanna get at the heart of the Digital Equity Act and really hear from the people who are historically disconnected and in that gap, you've gotta take those extra steps. And I remember thinking when we first started this, we're gonna be done by May or June, we're gonna have a plan in, and I'm like, we've had to really re-evaluate because it'd be really easy to get it in and like try to be the first, but we've gotta do it right or we miss our opportunity to elevate every community, which is point of Infrastructure Act.

Sarah: Well, it's really heartening to hear you say this because, I don't know if you know Dustin Loup of the Broadband Mapping Coalition, but he makes these points all the time. So it's great to hear that someone who's in charge is actually executing that strategy of it, including people who can't make it a lot of the times. I want to, again, I've got tons of questions, but I'll swap between mine and the communities. So, Jase Wilson, the co-founder of Broadband Money and Ready, has posted cross-posting an important question from Joseph Alandra in the event chat.

Sarah: It's an unfortunate fact that the current version of the FCC Fabric, for all intents and purposes leaves Indian country either misrepresented or left out. Indian countries objectively the most unserved groups in the country. It's vitally important State Broadband offices recognize the situation Indian country finds itself in at this very important moment in time and it's our hope that the tribes will have a seat at the table as BEAD funding is allocated, what's your approach in dealing with tribes in Kansas? 

Jade: Yeah, I concur with that assessment and it's a great question. What we are doing is, we're working through our Native American Affairs Executive Director. She rests in the governor's office for Tribal Outreach and also the NTIA has tribal liaisons for each kind of region. So we're setting up meetings with them and with facilitated questions. And our intent is, if you wanna be a part of this conversation, we really want your input and want to know what your needs are and want to include your needs in our plan, but also we recognize that you might not be comfortable with that, and we don't wanna force anything, we don't wanna infringe on any tribe's sovereignty, but I will share that we had meetings prior to the planning process when I first started.

Jade: I'm like, "What can we do to reach out to tribes?" And started having those meetings and many expressed frustration that the way state and local fiscal recovery funds were allocated bypassed the tribes. I mean, communities were able to include tribal populations in their allocation, but not necessarily pass those dollars on. And so they have expressed frustration that they have to go through state offices for competitive Broadband grants. And so I'm trying to be really aware of that dynamic and seeing what we can do. We score tribal grants higher just on our scoring matrix.

Jade: We recently, through our Capital Projects fund, were able to award one tribe at the Iowas with almost 1.5 million dollar grant for capital projects fund. But it really comes down to the outreach and that local consult and better understanding their needs and the way that they have been left out and left behind by some of these programs.

Jade: Another thing I will mention that we're trying to do is, there were some Art of awards on tribal lands that did not include local consult. And they have been very upfront with me that like, please don't exclude our lands from consideration in future grant programs because there's no way we are letting this provider on our lands to put up towers. So that is very helpful because then I've been in consult with NTIA and they say, if you provide a letter that states that, those territories or those areas are then open for future grant funding, even though BEAD says you can't fund an area that has other federal funds coming through it.

Jade: So we're doing our best. It's just really tough because I wanna be very sensitive to tribal needs. Some of them are less trusting of our office or the state. And I recognize that and I'm trying to build those relationships. But at the end of the day, we can't put a plan forth that that doesn't include them. The other thing is, when the Fabric came out, I got feedback from those tribes, it was wildly inaccurate and we can talk a lot about mapping and I don't wanna cast shade on those efforts 'cause it's a...

Sarah: No, I think everyone would be interested to see how you reacted to that feedback though.

Jade: Well, so the key as they explained it to me is that like maybe their parcel data and that information, the different streams of data they were pulling from weren't as accurate as maybe those on non-sovereign land, which makes sense. And so I'm very grateful for the NTIA for the flexibility as a state to establish our own map, I know that certain FCC commissioners want us to use the Fabric as the gold standard. But when I'm hearing feedback like that from a covered population, that not only is it inaccurate on the state writ large, but it's like extraordinarily inaccurate in these particular areas we'll definitely take that to heart.

Jade: And when we make our own maps where we're trying to work very closely with the tribes and ask that their GIS people work with our GIS specialists so that we can create a more accurate representation of where Broadband is and where Broadband isn't, so that we can include areas for grant consideration that may have been off the map. So that's how we're handling it, I hope other states are handling it that way, I'm sure they are because I think every Broadband director in the nation is really committed to covered populations and the spirit of the NOFO and not just, again, checking off the box.

Sarah: Okay, I'm going to ask a few... There are a bunch of questions coming in, but I have to admit ignorance and maybe call on Ben, who's in the background running things, I feel like I'm seeing people hold up their virtual hands and I just don't know how to get to those people. But, I don't know, maybe if you have a question, please pop it into the chat, because I don't know how to get to the people who've put up their hands.

Jade: Oh, that's funny 'cause as a speaker, I can't see that anybody's on this call, so are they actually watching? 

Sarah: Yeah, of course.

Jade: That's so cool.

Sarah: Yes, so there's a question from someone called Austin Lejoy, I'm not sure. Question for you, Jade on supply chain, I'm conducting research on supply chain pressures for ISPs participating in grant programs throughout the US, and results so far show that operators are frequently exceeding submitted budgets and timelines due to one general component, price increases, two significantly increased component lead times, and three skilled contract labor shortages. What's your take on the role, the Broadband office should play, if any, in mitigating these supply chain issues so that grantees can fulfill their grant build out obligations? 

Jade: Great question. And I'm gonna be really honest. We have not seen that. We just administered, like I said, our capital projects fund 83.5 million. I think if you set the expectation up front, we have a two year... We have a 24 month build out expectation in all of our grant programs, and you know what, there are people who exceed that expectation and we take those on a one by one basis and we require monthly reporting, and we are as flexible as we can possibly be. But I think that of course there are challenges, supply chain, labor, equipment costs, inflation, so many challenges. But born out of that, are the people who are most innovative and hungriest rise to the top. And I'm just gonna be honest, we're not experiencing that level, there's a lot of panic and a lot of this will never work.

Jade: And I know it's not gonna be easy, but I came from the private side, we didn't really talk about that. But during the CARES Act funding, the company for which I worked had four months to build out 350 miles of fiber in multiple wireless towers in the winter in Kansas through rock and other challenges. And we did it. So I don't have a lot of sympathy for people who say it can't be done, if it... If you think it can't be done, don't apply for a grant because we expect you to show up and rise to the occasion and get it done. If you're gonna partner with this office, we want you to be just as passionate about the mission of universal connectivity and the urgency required as we are.

Sarah: Okay, but there are so many things in the BEAD.

Jade: The BEAD would different BEAD so I knew that, and the whole fiber thing, I get that. But I think what I'm most concerned about is, we've kind of risen to the occasion on fiber here in America, especially with the new Corning facilities, etcetera. Equipment will be a challenge, I know there will be challenges, but I also think that those companies who are already working on their network designs and already stockpiling equipment and fiber are gonna be better positioned. I know not every company has the ability to do that because of capital constraints, but we have a United mission, there's urgency behind it, we can ring our hands, you know me and Sarah, I rung my hands a lot about the map before I finally built a bridge and got over it, and that's what we're just gonna have to do is make the best of unideal circumstances.

Jade: I think America will rise to the occasion that is after all the intent of stimulus, the intent of an infrastructure and jobs act is to create new jobs and create new opportunities for industry to expand, to meet the needs of our people.

Sarah: I think I can frame some of that quote, but anyway, I'm going to carry on with some of these questions. Kareem Haddad, I hope I pronounce your name properly. Has your office started working on the BEAD five-year action plan? And are you concerned that you might miss the deadline of 270 days post receipt of planning funds? If not, what measures are you taking to meet the deadline given the exhaustive list of requirements for the five-year action plan? 

Jade: Yeah, it is... I often say that these federal deadlines are unrelenting. It's a lot. But no, I have no concern that we're gonna miss the deadline. I also don't have any concern that any of my cohorts are gonna miss the deadline because we know the importance of it. We've been given the tools, the NTIA has been exceptional and the resources they've provided us, I mean, we have a template. I have it right beside me, so we have it right here, my five year action plan template. And yeah, I was just working on it today before this meeting. One through four is kind of like what you're doing, who your staff is, and then step five is implementation and all of that. And that's kind of where we're at in that kind of one through five stage.

Jade: And I think that there are a lot of different programs and priorities that Broadband offices are working through, but I don't have any concern that the five-year plan deadline is gonna be met by Kansas or by any other state Broadband office because you have to recognize the people running these Broadband offices, every time I interact with one, I feel like so grateful to be a part of this cohort. They're really amazing and they're really committed to this effort and I think we're all gonna make it. And I'm a little bit Pollyanna though, you know that about me, Sarah. I'm pretty positive.

Sarah: Okay. All right. Is there anything in particular about the plan that is tricky though? 

Jade: Well, I think the asset mapping will be tricky. I think it's a really big lift to ask providers and even state agencies to be really transparent about their assets and their future plans, and then to fold that into our investment strategy when some of those future plans maybe aren't guaranteed. So I think that the asset mapping is gonna be tough. I also think that the challenge process is what keeps me up at night, 'cause I feel like if you do the work on the front side and have a really solid challenge process, everything flows more easily, and like it's key, right? 

Jade: If we can just get our challenge process in order, everything else I think will run smoothly. We're putting a lot of effort into our planning and we wanna get the plan right, because we know, if you get your strategy right, like everything else will be so much easier.

Sarah: Okay. I'm sorry, I have to confess ignorance. When you say asset mapping, can you give me an example of what you mean? 

Jade: Oh, sure. So as part of our planning, we need to know where fiber is, and where towers are and where... You know a lot of that's public, but a lot of movement, right? A lot of it's like proprietary information from the providers, and why on earth would they give it up to us. But we have strong partnership with our providers, and as long as we can make assurances on the, like legal assurances, on the confidentiality of that information, I think we'll be in a good position. But I just know, again, coming from the private sector, that's, that would've been a really hard ask, if somebody came to me for that. So I think that'll be a challenge. I think the challenge process will be a challenge. None of this is necessarily easy, and that's exactly why we have a digital divide. If it was easy, we would've solved it 20 years ago, right? 

Sarah: Yeah. Right. Really. So, and I want to dig a little bit more about the challenge process. You said you want to get it right. I mean, this has been a topic of discussion in many of our other AMAs. What does getting it right mean, and what does getting it wrong mean? 

Jade: Well, I think if we have defensible data then we're able to create a process and mapping that shows where Broadband is, and where it isn't. And kind of not eliminate, but make smaller the back and forth of, "No, I'm here. No you're not." Does that make sense? 

Sarah: Yeah.

Jade: Again, we're lucky in Kansas that we have had four or five grant program rounds, and every time our challenge process gets a little better. And the thing I like about this particular process is that it'll be done on the front side. So in the past we've always, like had everybody apply. Providers would identify areas that they said needed service, we would evaluate, and then open it up to public comment or challenge, and back and forth, and back and forth. And some people who had spent a lot of time on their application would be completely just eliminated through that process. This, I think, gives providers an opportunity to see like, here's where you can apply. So I think it's better for these eligible entities to have that mapped out on the front side, and I'm really excited about that. But I also wanna make sure it's as accurate as it can be from the get go, so that it reduces the amount of back and forth and all challenges.

Sarah: Right, right. Okay. So let's see. As long as we're talking about BEAD, I just wanna skip down one question. Stephen Schwebel says, "The BEAD NOFO creates several flexibilities for States to create rules that respond to their own local conditions." Is Kansas thinking about requesting any waivers, or concerned about implementing any of the NTIA guidelines? 

Jade: Oh my lord. We don't know.

Sarah: That's what we're talking about.

Jade: That's a lot. [chuckle] We don't know yet if we're gonna do a waiver of the 25% match. What I've been focused on... So in Kansas, we have something called an Infrastructure Hub that our department of Transportation secretary, who recently just left, put together. And it has, on the Hub all six kind of streams. Well, there's actually 12. So you're water, broadband, roads, bridges, et cetera. Like all the different functions of the Infrastructure Act. And we're in this Hub, and we share best practices, and go out to communities and hear their needs, and how best to assist them with, applying for these grants, et cetera. So we asked the legislature for $200 million in matching grants for infrastructure needs, so we can leverage those matching funds for greater pull down of federal funds. And I actually just testified on that a couple days ago.

Jade: It didn't seem like the appropriations committee was very keen on that. So I kind of had all my eggs in that basket, that we could avoid asking for the 25% waiver, because I was hoping we could maybe get State funds to match some of those needs. Anything's possible, we have till May to figure that out. But I guess long story short, I don't know if we'll be asking for a waiver. I think that our capital projects fund with a sliding scale is very apparent that a greater than 75% public matches are needed in these high cost rural areas that lack broadband. And we're never gonna get to the last 1-5% hardest to reach unless we, pony up 80, 90 plus percent on the CapEx side, because we still have, of course, operational expenses for providers to maintain these networks with one or two people per square mile. So very possible that we'll ask for a waiver on that.

Sarah: I assume this is what you told the legislators, right? I mean, obviously they want to help their constituents. So why do you think they weren't keen? I mean, where did they think you were gonna get the money from? 

Jade: I'm not sure. I was kind of taken aback because again, we have all this empirical evidence from our last program, greater than six, almost two thirds of our CPF grants were 75% plus public match. So that means our providers provided less than a quarter percent private match. And it was, again, extraordinarily successful in meeting our metrics of very rural, underserved and economically distrusted. And that's where most of our unserved are in those super high cost areas. I'm gonna continue to work on that because I think it's... I hate to ask for a waiver 'cause that means we have less money to get to everyone, right? If we're... Yeah... So I'd like to get the state to maybe put in for money to get to those high cost areas.

Sarah: Okay. Well, hopefully they'll see this conversation. So Kenneth Yancey asks, what is your digital equity... Sorry, there's just a couple of other things that popped up. Kenneth Yancey asks, what's your digital equity and inclusion funding process? Will existing nonprofits get preference over new nonprofits with proven digital equity inclusion, economic development solutions? 

Jade: Absolutely. We haven't, again, we haven't yet mapped that out, but I'll say that in our infrastructure programs, we only allow for companies that have been in business three plus years in Kansas to apply. So there's a lot of fly by night and new people coming out of the woodwork with the historic level of funding. And we wanna make sure that we don't, on the infrastructure and digital equity side, have a bunch of carpetbaggers swooping in with solutions that were born out of the funding versus a mission that was already in the works.

Sarah: Okay, we're coming near the end, although we do have 15 more minutes. And this is a question that I really wanted to ask is, how's the role of being Mayor and Director of Industry and Community Relations at IdeaTek informed your work? Can you... There's a two part question, I guess.

Jade: Yeah.

Sarah: I mean you've been, you were on the city council to begin with and you've been mayor and you've also been in business side. So can you tell us about the being mayor first and being part of the city council and then being at IdeaTek? 

Jade: Yeah. Well, it's an interesting question because I always felt like I was appointed to this role because of my industry experience. But now that I'm here my elected experience is far more beneficial.

Sarah: Why? 

Jade: Well, because as a broadband director, you do exactly what you did as an elected, which is manage a variety of conflicting constituencies. And so as a mayor, it might have been the business community, the nonprofit community, different neighborhoods that weren't getting along. All of these different constituencies, you're always trying to balance them, manage them, listening to them, listen to them, and understand the dynamics between them. So I got to this role and I realize it's actually quite similar. So even just within industry, you have the rural ILEX, you have kind of the cable providers, you have the CLEX, you have the wireless providers and that's just industry.

Jade: And then you have the legislators and then you have the agencies. You have nonprofits, you have community organizations that are advocates in nature for digital equity or whatever. So you have cities, you have counties. So all of that is, it's a lot of trying to listen and take in and arbiter. [laughter] And so I feel like my role as mayor was very informative to what I do now, and I wasn't expecting that at all. I thought I'm qualified for this role because I've been in industry and I know broadband and I've been an advocate for rural broadband expansion policy for years and that was helpful. Don't get me wrong, I feel like I could hit the ground running once I got here. But yeah, really, really grateful that I had that experience as Mayor when I came here.

Sarah: Well, what is your strategy for dealing with all these competing interests? I think Jace actually asked that in the community as well. What is your strategy? How do you...

Jade: Well, it's kind of like when I was Mayor you take a lot of calls, you may not know, but as Mayor like your personal cell phone and your address is on the city website. And so people call you all the time and they really just wanna be heard, right? They wanna be heard, they want to know that their ideas matter and that you're trying your best to address them. And I found the same thing in this role, like all these different constituencies, they wanna be heard. If there's somebody who doesn't have broadband, they wanna be heard.

Jade: They wanna know what steps can I take to help my situation? What steps can you take in your role to help my situation? And then these different industry groups, they wanna be heard. They wanna know, okay, you're not gonna overbuild or you're gonna invest in companies that have been here, or they have a lot. I can't... It's not about what I want or think or know, which is very kind of little. But when I hear from everybody else, that informs the work I do.

Jade: And so it's really like to, Jace's question, listening, understanding, validating, trying to put those ideas into practice. You can't make everybody happy all the time, right? And not all ideas are equal, but if you take the time to listen to people and if they recognize you care and you want to heed their ideas, I think it goes a long way.

Sarah: Okay. I just have a funny anecdote. I'm not gonna name the Broadband director, but one person, one Broadband director, told me that they deliberately had a very small office, so people couldn't stay in there for very long. I mean, they were... I'm not going to say if as a man or a woman, but they said... They did listen, but they would make sure that people couldn't... Large groups of people couldn't sort of hang out in their office for too long.

Jade: Oh, interesting. Okay. That's lovely way to deal with it. That's awesome.

Sarah: But basically, the idea is to make people feel like they've been listened to, is your answer.

Jade: Well, and not just to passively listen, but to take what they say into consideration, because nobody wants to be pacified and the voice, as a public servant, that's why we're here, is to take seriously the input from the public. We can't, again, take every idea and put it into practice, but, you shouldn't be in this role if you think you have all the answers. You should be in this role if you have enough humility to recognize that you're here to serve others and to uplift others. And that requires that you take their ideas seriously.

Sarah: Okay. So Jade, we've got a little bit of time I'm going to pepper you with a bunch of questions. If you could come up with some succinct answers.

Jade: Okay. I'll try.

Sarah: That would be great. Although I... You've been wonderful at going in depth during this conversation. One is, I'm going to ask a Dave Tate question. He is an engineer. What's the role... What do you... What are your ideas and thoughts on latency? The role of latency in networks? 

Jade: I think that this is why I am, I have a fiber bias. I know we can't serve everyone with fiber, but we're looking at applications for the internet, not just today, but into the future, latency absolutely factors into that and will be a consideration in our grant scoring process.

Sarah: Okay. Thank you. What would you say to other mayors across the country about what they should be doing now to get grant funding? 

Jade: I would say don't look at this Infrastructure Act and think the calvary is coming. You are the calvary. Galvanize your community, champion behind this issue, and make sure you have a community focus and a plan to go to the Broadband office. You need to be in touch with Broadband offices or you will be left behind.

Sarah: Well, there was a great story on NPR actually about all the challenges that mayors face right now. And Broadband's just one of them. So...

Jade: That's good point.

Sarah: So how would you... I think one of the challenges that... The other challenges that mayors face is the fact that a lot of their areas might seem served on maps, but then actually underserved or unserved. How would you get around this? 

Jade: A couple of things. So in our programs, we offer [0:56:28.0] ____ to map validation of unserved, and that has to do with surveys, but it have to include at least 50% of the proposed project area. So we can show a pattern and not just like one person that might have a lower service level and or bad equipment. So that's one.

Jade: And two, yes, but look at the requirements indeed for anchor institutions, which are like gig symmetrical. And a lot of cities, even if they have... If they're served, maybe their anchors aren't. And the definition of anchor is quite expanded indeed. It's not just healthcare school library. So those are the two areas I would look at. If you feel like your city is not represented well on a map, then consider, again, galvanizing those neighborhoods for surveys door to door and look at where your anchors are in terms of service.

Sarah: Okay. That's great advice. Thank you. Well, you've answered a few of my questions. I was gonna ask you about unique geographical features, but you said it's very rural in Kansas? 

Jade: It's... Yeah, but it's like two different states. So on the west you can like plough through farmland, and on the east there's a lot of rocks. So huge differences in cost per mile.

Sarah: Okay. What else? I'm looking down my list of questions. I had millions of questions for you. I also want to the audience to hear your story about why you care so much about libraries.

Jade: Oh, okay. So, well, I guess I would say I care about anchors because yeah, I grew up very, very low income and I have a really great life, Sarah and that's not necessarily because of my own doing, it's because of the investment my community made in me. Because we had really strong school system and we had really strong public library, and that's where I lived, that's where my entire identity was. That's who supported me, uplifted me, invested in me, and that's why I care so much about this issue. I know that Broadband is only one of many issues that involve raising up people. But I do feel like it's like this little arch medium lever that has an impact in uplifting lots of different areas of our economy and our society. Education, work, healthcare, social.

Jade: And so I feel like broadband access and universal access is our opportunity to bring back that little slice of the American dream and equal opportunity for all. And so yeah, that's kind of why I'm really passionate about this issue. Again, I know as a mayor it's only one of many issues. The same could be maybe said about childcare or housing, but this is a really historic moment for this industry and is our opportunity to again, uplift communities, uplift people like I was.

Jade: I am proof positive that investing in people and investing in these type of critical services helps create opportunity and people who will then turn around and give back and be participating members of society. And I hope you think I'm participating in a meaningful way. So, yeah, that's kinda my story.

Sarah: Well, thank you. I really think there's so many aspects and facets of your life experience that make you perfect for this role. We are at the end, but someone has just popped another question in. So one last quick question. What is your strategy to deal with some of the onerous federal compliance requirements such as 2 CFR 200? 

Jade: Oh, golly. I don't know. Well, I think that we have made known our concerns for that particular provision. And I think that's being worked through. I have full faith...

Sarah: Wait, Jade, can you, what is that? I don't even know what that is.

Jade: So it's this requirement and actually I think BJ Tanksley was the one talking about it at the Q event I was speaking at. And it's a requirement in a lot of federal guidelines that doesn't necessarily translate to Broadband projects. It's more about programs that aren't necessarily infrastructure in nature. I'm not... I'll admit I'm not a 100% well versed on it, but in our conversations with the NTIA I feel like there're recognizing that it's maybe not a requirement that necessarily applies. We'll see, but at the end of the day, I know there are so many as the questioner asked, onerous, provisions and requirements, but I have faith that we'll get around them. People will rise to the occasion. We'll be as flexible as we can with the ones that we can be. And we'll get to universal connectivity. That's... It's not an option, right? This is, again, is our moonshot. We're gonna get it done, Sarah.

Sarah: With that, that's a great last line. Thank you so much, Jade. Really appreciate your time. I think this has been a wealth of information for everyone. And I'd like to thank you for your time. So I'm gonna call on Ben. What should we do now? 

Ben: Well, I just wanna thank Jade, thank you community for coming out. Thank you Sarah for hosting. And I will wind down the stream. Thank you guys all one more time.

Jade: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.

Sarah: Thank you.

Ben: Bye.

Sarah: Take care. Bye