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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Governor Steve Beshear joined Congressman Harold "Hal" Rogers Wednesday, Jan. 22 to announce a state and federal investment to extend high-speed broadband Internet access throughout the Commonwealth.
Beshear says the first priority for the expansion will be increasing service to eastern Kentucky.
The project is supported by $60 million in state bonds and $40 million in federal and private sources.
"Access to high-speed and high-quality Internet is no longer a luxury; it's a necessity in the 21st century economy. Businesses and schools demand it," said Gov. Beshear. "Our communities that lack reliable high-speed access will lag behind in economic development, distance learning and advanced health technologies, and that's unacceptable."
The state's new 'Super I-way' will build nearly 3,000 miles of new fiber infrastructure.
"It takes away our historic barriers to better jobs, the difficult terrain and isolation. All of a sudden, the world is flat and the famed superior work ethic of our people will be able to compete with the world from home," said Congressman Rogers.
Currently, Kentucky ranks 46th in high-speed broadband Internet availability. Nearly a quarter of the Commonwealth's population has no access to broadband.
"That's not acceptable," said Gov. Beshear. "We cannot get companies to even consider locating in an area that doesn't have broadband. This is just one reason high-speed broadband Internet is important for the entire economy of Kentucky, not just urban areas."
Most households in the state have access to an Internet Service Provider (ISP), but that's not the same as high-speed broadband. Broadband is considered "always on", and is capable of carrying much larger amounts of information to a larger group of users.
The initial phase of the Next Generation Kentucky Information Highway project, estimated to cost approximately $100 million, could take up two to three years to build nearly 3,000 miles of fiber infrastructure, which is often referred to as the "middle" mile.
The project will incorporate the current and best available technology at a speed of up to 100 gigabits per second. Where available, existing fiber will be used.
A number of obstacles have prevented the full expansion of high-speed broadband into every home and business, including sparse population, affordability and consumer attitude.
The broadband initiative is just one of the projects developed during the SOAR Summit in December. For a full report on the summit, click here.