New broadband group assembled
Kentucky leaders are positioning the state to reap its share of more than $7 billion in stimulus funds Congress has set aside to expand broadband service throughout the nation.
Gov. Steve Beshear has asked Finance and Administration Secretary Jonathan Miller to bring together a group of associations, member organizations, state cabinets and agencies, and local governments to study expansion of service into rural areas.
“The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act presents the Commonwealth of Kentucky with an unprecedented opportunity for advancing the state, and improving at all levels of cooperation in government,” Miller said. “In terms of economic development, improving education, and improving the efficacy of government services, few areas have as great an impact, or consequences as far reaching into our future, as comprehensive broadband deployment.”
Sec. Miller says federal guidance has been slow to develop, but what is clear is that a significant portion of the funds available will be distributed competitively. Miller says it is also increasingly likely that applicants who form strategic partnerships to leverage every available dollar will be strongly encouraged.
In a recent report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office stated that broadband service in some form reached 90 percent of all U.S. households, but more work is needed to reach the remaining 10 percent.
Twelve states have mapped broadband availability to determine service gaps, while 13 states are planning to map their coverage in the future, according to the GAO. Twelve states reported having publicly available broadband plans, while six states are in the process of deploying a plan.
The GAO found that 14 states have provided financial support to local providers, state cooperatives, or state agencies to spur broadband deployment. Mississippi provides a tax credit to companies to invest in the state, ranging between five percent and 15 percent over a 10-year period, with the highest credit going to those companies that invest in the least populous areas of the state.