Former Kansas Broadband Chief Reflects on Controversial Exit

Piros de Carvalho’s departure comes at a time in which state broadband offices are being scrutinized as never before. 

Former Kansas Broadband Chief Reflects on Controversial Exit
Photo of Jade Piros de Carvalho, former head of Kansas broadband office

July 11, 2024 – One of the most visible state broadband leaders, Kansas’ Jade Piros de Carvalho, is out of a job.

Piros de Carvalho was let go from her position on June 5 because of an in-person comment she made.

In particular, Piros de Carvalho told Broadband Breakfast that the comment was about a “threat to pull a contract due to a change in key personnel.”

Accepting the role of head of the Kansas Office of Broadband Development came with inherent risks, Piros de Carvalho acknowledged. “Appointed positions come with zero job protections — employment status in these roles is not always based on job performance but can be subject to political whims,” she told Broadband Breakfast.

Enhanced scrutiny of state broadband offices

Piros de Carvalho’s departure comes at a time in which state broadband offices are being scrutinized as never before. 

On Tuesday, House Energy and Commerce Committee opened an investigation into the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s handling of state plans for the Biden administration’s broadband expansion program, with committee leadership asking NTIA to turn over its communications with state broadband offices related to the evaluation of their Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment plans, including written feedback and edits, by July 23.

As noted in an article in the Kansas Reflector after her outster, former Arizona State Broadband Director Jeff Lobotka said that amount of stress per $1 earned by a state broadband director ranged between air traffic controller and explosive ordinance disposal technician.

And Daniel Friesen, cofounder and chief innovation officer at her former employer IdeaTek, said Piros de Carvalho “embodied innovation so desperately needed in our state broadband efforts.” 

The need for authenticity

Recounting her recent experiences on a webcast with Christopher Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self Reliance's Community Broadband Networks Initiative on June 18, Piros de Carvalho emphasized that solving problems requires being "as authentic and transparent as possible," adding that "people are fearful of doing that."

She acknowledged that the public sector needs leadership that can control the narrative and anticipate what’s going to happen.

"We have to be bolder, we have to be more outspoken about what it's going to take to enact change and help impact people's lives positively," she said on the webcast. 

Piros de Carvalho highlighted in the webcast that her team successfully delivered on a $5 million state program. Within two years, the office became responsible for more than $600 million in grants across multiple federal agencies and state programs, all with different guidelines.

A dynamic leader in the state broadband world

Reflecting on her early days in office in June 2022, her team used providers' feedback to ensure the state extends the incentives necessary for providers to enter high-cost areas. She encouraged providers to work with local communities, get their support, and create plans together, prioritizing sub-grantees who commit to an open access network model to prevent the misuse of public funds.

Piros de Carvalho recently helped Kansas award seven organizations a combined $3.9 million in Advancing Digital Opportunities to Promote Technology grants which seek to tackle the challenges of digital accessibility, affordability, and availability.

And a March 2023 interview described her front-row seat for BEAD, but also highlighted her role, until January 2023, as the Mayor of Hutchinson, Kansas. It is the 11th largest city in the state, with a population of 40,202.

A Kansas internet star juggles multiple broadband roles | The Broadband Community
brings a multiplicity of hats to the broadband game. As the director of the Kansas Office of Broadband Development, she has a front-row seat for the distribution of funds under the bipartisan infrastructure law’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deploym…

Also see Piros de Carvalho's remarks at the Made in America Summit in June 2023:

Made in America Summit
Become a Breakfast Club member and watch the videos from the Summit.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly said that Piros de Carvalho was let go from her position because of a comment on LinkedIn. In fact, the comment she made was an in-person comment. The article has been corrected.

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