Commonwealth Journal

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January 22, 2014

‘Super I-Way’ proposed to bring internet to Eastern KY

Hal Rogers wants region to become ‘Silicone Holler’

Frankfort, Ky. —

 
Republican U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers said Wednesday that a network providi-ng high speed, high capacity broadband service to rural and eastern Kentucky can overcome historical dis-advantages of the region such as mountainous terrain and lack of transportation that have deterred economic development.
Along with Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, Rogers wants Kentucky to invest in what he calls a “Super I-Way” to level the playing field and convert the area into what Rogers calls “Silicone Holler.”
In fact, Rogers said during a joint press conference in the state Capitol with Beshear and 18 eastern Kentucky state lawmakers, it can “make the world flat.”
Broadband service for historically underserved eastern Kentucky was one of the primary recommendations from the December SOAR (Shaping Our Appalachian Region) conference held in Pikeville to discuss ways to diversify the eastern Kentucky economy in the wake of the declining coal industry.
Rogers and Beshear convened the conference and promised action on the recommendations. In his budget speech to lawmakers Tuesday night, Beshear called for expanding broadband to all of rural Kentucky and to extend and expand the Mountain Parkway from Winchester to Prestonsburg.
Beshear said he can’t guarantee a new business or industry will choose to locate in a community with broadband service but he can almost guarantee they won’t locate in one without it. Rogers said the Internet has become this era’s interstate highway for major businesses and industry.
Beshear’s budget proposal calls for issuing $60 million of bonds toward a $100 million project to extend broadband trunk lines to all sections of Kentucky. The remaining $40 million is to come from a combination of federal and private funding.
The first phase of the project will focus on eastern Kentucky, the region of the state with the least broadband service and access. Rogers, chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, said Wednesday that the federal omnibus spending plan passed by Congress last week includes about $80 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission to increase job opportunities and per capita income in the region.

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