Frankfort, Ky. —
That includes $10 million for broadband deployment in distressed central Appalachian counties in Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.
“I’m hoping this will be the beginning of federal investment in our hard-hit coal fields,” Rogers said. While he said broadband service isn’t “a silver bullet, it will level the playing field. For the first time ever, eastern Kentucky will be in the world market without having to chase jobs in the Detroits of our past.”
Rogers moved to Detroit in search of work when he was just out of college before returning to his home region.
Standing behind Beshear and Rogers were the top two legislative leaders of the General Assembly: Democratic Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo and Republican Senate President Robert Stivers, both of whom come from Rogers’ Fifth District in eastern Kentucky.
But Stivers has also said Beshear’s budget contains “a lot of debt,” and his Floor Leader, Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, also criticized the budget’s debt levels. Rogers didn’t directly address concerns about debt by Republicans, but he noted the project will be funded “only in part” by the state.
He also said the investment will be returned several times over in new businesses and employment. Stivers didn’t address the question — which was directed to Rogers.
Beshear said the state will seek partnerships with some private companies to help finance the project and Rogers noted the system would allow a much larger capacity that can be accessed and used by private companies. Local communities could also hook onto the trunk lines.
“What we’re talking about is hooking onto the national grid,” Rogers said, vastly increasing capacity. He talked about federal data processing jobs which have been created along I-75 from Mt. Vernon to Corbin, even with a lower capacity system.