State and federal leaders are continuing a joint effort to make educational and economic advances in Appalachian Kentucky. This initiative focuses on wiring the entire state for internet service.
Almost a quarter of the state’s population has no access to broadband services. To remedy that, Governor Steve Beshear and Congressman Hal Rogers are backing a one hundred million dollar high speed broadband project.
Center for Rural Development President Lonnie Lawson says currently many prospective employers don’t give eastern Kentucky a second look.
“Right now when companies come in, they’ll start doing check the boxes and if you don’t have this capacity or this service, then they’ll eliminate you right off the bat. You’re not even in the conversation,” said Lawson.
The plan calls for almost three thousand miles of fiber infrastructure. Sixty percent of the money for this expansion would come from state resources.
Veteran U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers admits broadband expansion is not a silver bullet, but it could further eastern Kentucky’s place in the world market.
Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Director Dave Adkisson believes wiring the Appalachian region opens the doors to individual business men and women.
“You stop and think about the young software engineer, someone that has the ability to operate out of their back bedroom and just create a business entrepreneurially. They can’t do that without broadband and they have to go to a Lexington or a Nashville or Cincinnati or whatever to start to do that kind of business and that’s the kind of thing we need to make available all across rural Kentucky,” added Adkisson.
Typically, internet service costs about 20 dollars or more a month, so affordability in high areas of poverty is an issue. Governor Beshear says that issue remains to be worked out as the project moves forward. But, he hopes this can be a public-private partnership.
“Our intent here is not to compete with the private sector. Our intent is to partner with the private sector. To make sure we cover every entire part of the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” said Beshear.
Leaders of both houses of the legislature fully support this broadband expansion. House Speaker Greg Stumbo says it’s another example of bi-partisan momentum to bring about positive change to eastern Kentucky.
Senate President Robert Stivers says the region has depended upon natural resources, primarily coal to support local communities. He says high speed internet access will broaden the job possibilities.