Friday, November 02, 2007

Kentucky's public-private partnership for rural broadband is becoming a national model

Congress likes Kentucky's public-private partnership approach to rural broadband so much that it is moving legislation to provide grants to follow the state's lead, reports The Wall Street Journal.

ConnectKentucky, the non-for-profit that runs the partnership, says broadband is available to 95 percent of Kentuckians. It uses "detailed research on communications networks, targeted public spending and cooperation with private-sector providers of broadband," Corey Boles writes. "44 percent of the state's population, much of it rural, subscribes to broadband services, up from 22 percent three years ago. The program has grown into a national not-for-profit group called Connected Nation."

Measuring the availability and reach of broadband is difficult because of the way the Federal Communications Commission measures it, so a House committee has passed a bill to force the FCC "to pinpoint where broadband service is available and where it isn't," Roberts writes. The FCC told him it is already moving on that front.

Rep. Zack Space of Ohio, who filed the bill to make grants, "has formed the Connecting Appalachia Broadband Task Force, a group of various officials, local leaders and telecom industry representatives to bring broadband to rural Appalachia," the Journal reports. "Space worries that the U.S. hasn't kept pace with other developed countries, and that rural districts like his will lose jobs." (Read more, subscription required) The Economist and The Rural Blog reported in September that Kentucky was becoming a national model. To read that item, click here.

Meanwhile, "The administrator of a federal loan program that supports the rollout of high-speed Internet access to rural areas told Congress that the effort is flawed and needs to be overhauled," reports David Hatch of National Journal's Technology Daily. (Read more)

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