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In the 1990s, the near future looked like a place where distance would no longer matter.

In an increasingly online economy, location would matter less than connection. The internet appeared destined to make working from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, much the same as tackling a job from Pittsburg, Kansas.

Yet three decades later, location matters as much as ever.

Jonathan Ahl / Harvest Public Media

Swiss Meat and Sausage has been butchering animals and selling meats in a small, unincorporated east-central Missouri town for 50 years. Co-owner Janice Thomas wants to expand, and to do that, she’ll need more business from out-of-town customers.

“If there is one place that has some room, it’s with our online ordering,” she said.

The community of Swiss has minimal internet access: It’s not high speed, and it’s unreliable.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Super(natural?) savings

Kris Kobach contends that he could cut nearly $2 billion from the cost of Kansas Medicaid budget.

The hard-line conservative Republican running for governor sees a way to cut those costs by adopting direct primary care, also known as concierge care.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Bucks from jocks

The University of Kansas is wrestling, as Stephen Koranda puts it, with a $20 million budget cut and whether its well-heeled athletic department might offer a way to make ends meet.

KU’s money shortage follows years of cuts by the Kansas Legislature to higher education.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Boondocks broadband

How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm if they can’t stream Netflix?

The Federal Communications Commission sent seven grants to Kansas totaling $4.7 million to expand  rural access to broadband internet.

Gary Smith has worked at the grain elevator at Okaw Farmer’s Co-op in Lovington, Illinois, for 40 years. On his desk sit two computer screens, where he tracks corn and soybean prices online at the Chicago Board of Trade.

As he explained, trade moves fast: “Just bam bam bam, and within a few seconds it could change a nickel or a dime against your favor.”

Ashley Leal parks in front of the Plains, Kansas, Community Library. It’s about to close, but she doesn’t care. She pulls out her blue laptop.

“I’m ... using the Wi-Fi,” Leal says with a laugh.

Her home internet was so slow, she came to the library parking lot. Cars often idle there in the evening while their drivers tap into a plodding, but treasured, link to the internet.

“I’m just thankful that we have somewhere to go,” Leal says.

It’s the only free internet in this small western Kansas town. For many people, it’s the only internet, period. Surprisingly, part of the problem and the solution, for rural areas may lie in Netflix traffic.

Frank Morris / KCUR

Increasingly Americans see fast internet as being more like a functioning sewer line, than a luxury. And to that end, a number of cities are trying to get into the internet provider business. But laws in 19 states hamper those efforts. President Obama wants to lift those restrictions.  Supporters of what’s known as municipal broadband can’t wait.

Aaron Deacon / Social Media Club of Kansas City

Google Fiber is scheduled to make a "special announcement" on Thursday, July 26, at 11 am CDT.