Andrew McNeill, vice president for Program Development with ConnectKentucky, speaks to lawmakers on the Interim Joint Committee on Economic Development.
(Images courtesy of Kentucky Educational Television (KET))
Kentucky has made substantial improvement in the last three years to help its citizens obtain high-speed access to the Internet, a legislative panel recently heard.
Andrew McNeill, vice president for Program Development with ConnectKentucky, told lawmakers on the Interim Joint Committee on Economic Development that 94 percent of all Kentuckians now have broadband Internet available to them, up from 60 percent in 2004. Of those who have access, 34 percent actually subscribe to broadband, up from 22 percent three years ago, putting Kentucky right at the national average, McNeill said.
Only three counties — Breathitt, Lee and Owen — have fewer than half of their residents with available broadband.
Most places that remain unserved by broadband are located in lightly populated rural areas, McNeill said, making it less cost effective to expand to those areas. One of ConnectKentucky's partners, however, works with satellite technology so that broadband can be expanded to those areas. "These areas are challenging, but they're challenges we're tackling," he said.
McNeill noted that broadband access is increasingly a necessity to lure businesses.
"Having the infrastructure in place is the foundation on which we can build future economic growth," he said.
Part of the credit for Kentucky's phenomenal growth, McNeill said, goes to legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2004 that reduced regulation on broadband services and allowed companies to compete.
Rep. John Will Stacy, D-West Liberty, noted that while it's important to make sure all Kentuckians have access, it's also important that multiple options are available in the community. "It may be available, but cost could be an obstacle," he noted.
Rep. Melvin Henley, R-Murray, also remarked on the need for all local libraries to provide broadband. "Many people who can't afford broadband in their home, use it at the library," he said.
McNeill said that nearly all, if not all, public libraries in the state now provide broadband to their patrons.