Kentucky works on high speed Internet access

Kentucky's high speed Internet plan recently caught the attention of The Wall Street Journal, which highlighted ConnectKentucky, a nonprofit funded 90% by the state and 10% by private businesses and foundations which aims to bring high speed Internet to all state residents. As the Journal reported,

Kentucky's plans to use the Internet to improve education and health care couldn't be realized until the state achieved more basic benchmarks, such as wider broadband availability and use, says Brian Mefford, ConnectKentucky's chief executive officer. "We needed a more nuts-and-bolts approach," he says.

Working on an annual budget of $2 million, ConnectKentucky has used that nuts-and-bolts approach to expand the state's high speed networks into rural areas since 2004. The results have been impressive: the organization says 95 percent of Kentuckians can now access high speed connections, up from 60 percent in 2004. And that's had a positive effect on the state's economy:

Based on a formula developed at the Brookings Institution to measure the economic benefits of broadband service, ConnectKentucky estimates its efforts have resulted in about 63,000 new or retained jobs. In particular, the group's analysis of federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that Kentucky experienced a 3.1% increase in information-technology jobs over the two years ending in December 2006, compared with growth of 0.1% nationally.

Those numbers are impossible to ignore, which explains why ConnectKentucky has inspired similar programs across the country, serving as a model for high speed Internet expansion projects in Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

Now, for the sake of our economy, education, and health care, the rest of the country should follow suit and work to bring the benefits of high speed Internet to everyone.

Faster and Stronger (The Wall Street Journal) 

High speed in the Blue Grass (Speed Matters)

ConnectKentucky: A model for the rest of the country (Speed Matters)

Gov. Strickland kicks off Connect Ohio (Speed Matters)

Tennessee Creates Non-Profit To Improve High Speed Internet (Speed Matters)

Public and private efforts to connect West Virginia (Speed Matters)