Sunday, January 24, 2016

Telcos, libertarians want new GOP governor in Ky. to rework or scrap public broadband network

Now that Kentucky has "created a nationally recognized public-private partnership to build America’s best statewide broadband network," and the governor is a Republican, "opponents are trying to kill it," reports columnist Tom Eblen of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

"Some telecom and cable companies that now provide Internet service around the state, along with several right-wing advocacy groups, are pushing legislators and Gov. Matt Bevin to rethink the project," writes Eblen, the paper's former managing editor. "AT&T has filed a protest over the state’s process for awarding school Internet service contracts, many of which it now has. The Kentucky Telecom Association, which represents 15 rural Internet providers, thinks KentuckyWired should be reconsidered, claiming it would duplicate existing infrastructure and undermine existing businesses that need their state and school service contracts. The telecoms are getting backup from libertarian advocacy groups that object on principle to government-owned broadband networks." Bevin has not commented.
Image via Lexington Herald-Leader; click on it for a larger version
The school and state contracts "are needed to make the financial package work" for the state and Macquarie Capital, the Australian venture-capital firm that would operate the network," Eblen reports. "Macquarie will pay off the bonds and earn a return on investment over 30 years, mainly by providing 1,100 state offices and schools with what it claims will be faster, less-expensive Internet service than what most of them now get from telecom and cable companies using proprietary networks." Macquarie will share revenue with the state.

Then-Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, got the legislature to create KentuckyWired because Kentucky ranks low "nationally for broadband availability, service and cost," Eblen notes. "Complaining about slow, expensive Internet has become almost as popular a topic of statewide conversation as UK basketball." The project was created as part of the bipartisan Shaping Our Appalachian Region initiative of Beshear and 5th District U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, chair of the House Appropriations Committee.
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