Kentucky state officials looking to increase broadband in rural areas

Kentucky state officials looking to increase broadband in rural areas
Published: Feb. 20, 2023 at 5:27 PM CST
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OWENSBORO, Ky. (WFIE) - The State of Kentucky is looking to boost the amount of broadband available in rural areas.

Back at the end of January, the U.S. Department of the Treasury listed Kentucky as one of four states to be receiving ARPA funds for broadband internet expansion.

“We are losing Kentuckians because they are going somewhere where they can ensure they can get high speed internet,” said Henderson Co. Judge Executive Brad Schneider.

A hot-button issue in the Commonwealth, the state government will be deciding what counties they’ll use the funds for.

In order to measure need, Governor Andy Beshear is holding a listening tour with 14 stops along the way.

“People who have very poor service are getting very frustrated,” said Daviess Co. Judge Executive Charlie Castlen.

One of those stops happened Tuesday in Owensboro.

“Many of my students struggle with internet access,” said OCTC Associate Professor Matt Monsour. “Virtually every day I get an email from a student I tried to turn this in but my internet wasn’t working.”

Monsour works for Owensboro Career and Technical College, and he says having broadband internet in the area is crucial, but not just for education.

“You can’t get your prescriptions, you can’t do school work, you can’t do your job,” Monsour said. “People have jobs that work from home and have no options for internet.”

The state is set to receive $182.8 million for broadband infrastructure.

Schneider says there are still a lot of questions after Tuesday’s meeting.

“Where that money is going to go, who’s going to get it, what they’re going to do with it are the key questions, and we don’t know that yet,” Schneider said.

Schneider says communication with the governor’s office will be crucial, since counties across the Commonwealth will be vying for a piece of the ARPA funds for their own broadband needs.

“Counties and regions that do that well I think will do better in the long run in getting broadband to all their people,” Schneider said. “And the ones who don’t stay on top of it won’t, so we’re going to stay on top of it.”

As we’ve reported in the past there are already fiber installations happening in Western Kentucky from companies such as Kenergy.

There is no set timetable for when the ARPA funds will be released to the counties.

We’ll keep you updated as this story develops.