Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Frankfort are lining up behind an ambitious plan to extend high-speed broadband access across the state.
Gov. Steve Beshear and Congressman Hal Rogers made the official announcement Wednesday at the Capitol.
Expanding broadband service is one of the first concrete projects to come out of the Shaping Our Appalachian Region or SOAR initiative. Though the aim is to extend broadband to every corner of the state, phase one will focus on the underserved eastern portion of Kentucky.
Currently, close to a fourth of the state’s population is without broadband access. Congressman Rogers says the investment will yield dividends – in education, business, and job creation.
"It levels the playing field. It takes away our historic barriers to better jobs, the difficult terrain and isolation, and all of the sudden the world is flat and the famed, superior work ethic of our people will be able to compete with the world," Rogers said.
The initial phase will involve laying nearly 3,000 miles of fiber cable at a cost of about $100 million over the next two to three years.
Gov. Beshear’s budget includes $60 million in General Fund-supported bonds for the project. The additional $40 million needed would come from federal as well as private sources.