U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers says the federal government should have a role in spreading high-speed Internet access to the region's struggling coalfields.
The Kentucky Republican said Wednesday that the spending bill passed by Congress last week included $10 million to expand broadband access to distressed areas of central Appalachia.
Rogers said he hopes that's the start of federal investments for broadband access in hard-hit coal regions. As chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, Rogers will have an influential voice in that debate.
Rogers was at the Kentucky Capitol to support a plan outlined by Gov. Steve Beshear in his budget speech to lawmakers Tuesday night. Beshear is proposing a $100 million project to expand broadband access in Kentucky.
The proposal would be supported by $60 million in state bonds.
Advocates for more wireless and broadband options in Kentucky will once again push a bill reforming the state's telecommunications laws—specifically, removing language that requires old-school land-line service throughout the state.
Citizens for a Digital Future unveiled the legislation Tuesday, which is sponsored by state Sen. Paul Hornback, a Republican from Shelbyville.
The bill would allow phone companies to be unbounded from state law requiring them to run land line service in all areas of the state. If a comparable voice service was in the area, including wireless options, companies could end their land line services.
It has the support of various local and national groups who say wireless and broadband technologies need to be expanded statewide in order for the state to compete globally.
But opponents of the so-called "AT&T bill"— nicknamed after the largest company in support of the bill—say the measure allows telephone companies to stop landline service to rural areas, where doing so is expensive.
A national group that has pushed expanding broadband access in other southern states is now focusing on Kentucky. Citizens for a Digital Future is opening up a Kentucky chapter to help advocate for these issues with lawmakers and private businesses.