Governor, congressman announce next steps for statewide high-speed broadband project

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Kentucky Press News Service

FRANKFORT – Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers announced July 11 that two requests for proposals are being issued this month on a public-private partnership project to build critically needed high-speed broadband Internet access to the farthest reaches of the state.
Increasing broadband access in Eastern Kentucky is a primary focus of the project.
The Next Generation Kentucky Information Highway will help Kentucky make strides toward being a leader in terms of speed and presence of high-speed Internet connectivity, Beshear said in a statement.
“Infrastructure such as roads, sewers, water lines and classrooms are critical to our quality of life and economic vitality,” Beshear said. “Today, we also have to invest in another kind of infrastructure – the kind that will break down geographic and financial barriers to education and economic development.”
“This ‘Super I-Way’ will pave a high-tech future for Eastern Kentucky,” Rogers said in the statement. “It will launch our rural region into the global playing field, creating new job opportunities, innovative access to healthcare, enhanced educational opportunities, and much more. We are eager to move forward with this project to help grow Eastern Kentucky’s economy.”
The initial phase of the project is expected to take two years to build and will include more than 3,000 miles of fiber infrastructure, often referred to as the “middle mile.”
Currently, Kentucky ranks 46th in high-speed broadband Internet availability. Nearly a quarter of the state's population – 23 percent – has no access to broadband.
“Today, only about half of Kentucky’s households use broadband Internet service, and nearly one-quarter can’t access broadband at all,” Beshear said. “We’re going to fix that with an ambitious plan to extend broadband access, initially focusing on eastern Kentucky.”
The push for reliable, accessible high-speed broadband is one recommendation that emerged from “SOAR,” the “Shaping Our Appalachian Region” initiative that seeks to move Kentucky’s Appalachian region forward.
“Much like previous generations’ efforts to build sewer and water systems, the electric grid and paved highways, this broadband initiative will solidify Kentucky’s place in the new global economy,” Rogers said. “Our investment in it will pay dividends in the years ahead.”
Editor’s note: Story reprinted with permission through the Kentucky Press News Service.