Friday, January 24, 2014

Ky. to spend $100 million to expand broadband; Minn. state senator calls for expansion there

Kentucky lawmakers this week introduced a $100 million plan to expand high-speed Internet access in the state, stating that the early emphasis will be on rural Eastern Kentucky, John Cheves reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Also this week, state Sen. Matt Schmitt (D-Minn.) wrote an opinion piece in the Kenyon Leader in the southeastern part of the state, calling for his state to stop talking about expanding broadband and get the job done.

Gov. Steve Beshear
The plan in Kentucky, introduced by Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, and Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, "will rely on $60 million from state bonds and $40 million from federal and privately raised funds, including a portion of $10 million that Congress approved last week for rural broadband Internet expansion through the federal Appalachian Regional Commission," Cheves writes. Only 62 percent of Kentucky homes, mostly in urban areas, had access to broadband in 2012, compared to 73 percent of all U.S. homes, according to the University of Kentucky Center for Business and Economic Research.

"The first phase of broadband expansion under Beshear's plan could take as long as three years to lay nearly 3,000 miles of fiber infrastructure above and below ground, including about 600 miles in Eastern Kentucky," Cheves writes. (Read more)

Sen. Matt Schmitt
Scmitt calls broadband the "great transformative technology of the 21st Century," but says that the state has been slow in adopting it universally. He writes: "Over the past decade Minnesota has named three separate governor’s task forces on the subject. We’ve identified policy recommendations and set statewide speed goals. Our local providers and cooperatives have invested in new technology and infrastructure to meet rising demand for faster service and new applications. Yet, in many parts of the state this hasn’t been enough."

"Despite the best efforts of our local providers and cooperatives, poor broadband connectivity remains a real problem in many parts of the state; for too many of our communities and rural areas, scarce resources and limited private return-on-investment, as well as outdated and unclear state laws, serve as barriers to improved broadband connectivity; and folks are ready to do something about it," Schmitt writes. He calls on the 2014 legislative session to find a way to expand high-speed Internet, writing "many states have stepped up to meet this challenge; Minnesota should, too." (Read more)

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