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Appalachian Regional Commission
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Kentucky Hopes To Shake Off KentuckyWired Boondoggle as State Gets Ready for BEAD Funding
Kentucky is one of many states undergoing a baptism by fire as they jocky to take advantage of billions in historic federal broadband grants. The Kentucky Office of Broadband Development didn’t exist a year ago; now it’s tasked with identifying state broadband gaps and managing one of the most complex broadband subsidy efforts ever attempted.
All while shaking off a history of costly state boondoggles.
Kentucky officials last year announced they’d be spending more than $203 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to shore up broadband access. Now they’re preparing to spend hundreds of millions more courtesy of $42.5 billion in Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) grants made possible by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
Kentucky Office of Broadband Officials have spent the last few months on a listening tour getting an earful from frustrated state residents angry about high broadband prices, spotty coverage, and sluggish speeds. Kentucky currently ranks 30th nationwide in such metrics thanks in part to monopolization by local cable and phone giants.
Like so many states, the lack of affordable, reliable broadband access was particularly notable during the Covid home education and telecommuting boom, driving a renewed interest in creative broadband deployment alternatives.
Avoiding The Sins Of The Past
Past Kentucky efforts to bridge the digital divide haven’t gone particularly well.