Officials tout $100 mil. investment in broadband as 'I-way' to the future

01/22/2014 06:22 PM

Building branches of high-speed broadband internet fiber throughout Kentucky is a $100 million investment that should pay off in more jobs, U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, said Wednesday.

The plan is to lay a major broadband line, which Rogers called the “Super I-way,” from Cincinnati to Eastern Kentucky first to deliver high-speed internet to the region. Internet service providers would have to hook into that line to make it available to businesses and residences.

Eastern Kentucky is atop the broadband expansion priority list. Delivering that was one of the recommendations that came out of the Shaping Our Appalachian Region conference that Rogers and Gov. Steve Beshear hosted last month.

Beshear announced Tuesday that he wants to sell $60 million in state bonds to help fund the statewide broadband expansion. Another $20 million will come from the federal government and $20 million from private investment.

Even though the $60 million means taking on state debt, Rogers said the investment will pay off exponentially:

In Wednesday’s announcement, Beshear said the move is crucial to Kentucky’s economc development strategy and noted that Kentucky ranks 46th nationally in high-speed broadband Internet availability.

And Beshear said that can cost Kentucky jobs as companies decide to move to states that do have better broadband availability, although Beshear didn’t point to a specific instance in which a company cited that as a reason to move elsewhere.

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