Kentucky Fried Wireless

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The Ohio Valley is beautiful, mountainous, and full of people who cannot reliably connect to the internet, reports WFPL-FM. Sparse internet coverage makes it difficult, if not impossible, for rural residents to access broadband services.

Several different outfits offer assistance, but obtaining the funding can be a convoluted process. Kentucky residents, for example, are directed to programs named ReConnect and/or Kentucky Wired. An applicant could potentially use both programs, but with Kentucky Wired over budget by over $100 million, help is not likely from that quarter any time soon, according to the account.  

ReConnect is a USDA Rural Development pilot program that launched in 2018.  The administration added $550 million to the fund, Inside Towers reported. Eligible communities must indicate that 90 percent of residents, “lack sufficient broadband access.”

Hilda Legg, the USDA Rural Development Kentucky State Director, said the competition for funds means dedicated local involvement. “It requires local leadership to be committed to it to support segments of the private sector that may want to help them come in and help them put a plan together or an application together,” she said.  

Public servants like Gilbert, West Virginia Mayor, Vivian Livingood, believe the lack of reliable internet hinders businesses, schools, and local tourism, noted WFPL. “We get kicked off the internet here every two minutes, and that’s if we can afford the internet,” Livingood said. “And it’s just pitiful service. It’s not fast.”  

April 12, 2019

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