The office of Gov. Steve Beshear announced Friday that the state is seeking a request for proposals from private companies to expand broadband Internet access to Eastern Kentucky.
In a press release, the governor’s office said it will ask for proposals from companies to expand Internet access as part of the SOAR initiative, which aims to revitalize communities in the state’s economically troubled coal regions.The initial phase of the project will place 3,000 miles of broadband cable over a period of two years.
The governor’s office states that nearly one-quarter of Kentuckians don’t have access to broadband Internet.
The project is estimated to cost about $70 million, with $30 million appropriated by the state legislature and the remainder paid for by public-private partnership.
Gov. Steve Beshear on Monday announced $1.3 million in grants for an initiative to create jobs in the depressed coal regions of Eastern Kentucky.
The state plans to use $1 million to fund 52 full-time AmeriCorp positions to shore up "youth engagement, education success and health and human services over the next year," according to a news release from the governor's office. About $312,000 "will support implementation and technical assistance by a consortium of nine Area Development Districts located in the region."
Beyond that, it's unclear how the money will be administered by the 12-member executive committee of the SOAR, or Shaping Our Appalachian Region, initiative.
Beshear, a Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, a Republican who represents Eastern Kentucky, unveiled SOAR in December in an attempt to gather ideas for revitalizing the economically devastated coal communities in Eastern Kentucky.
The next step in the "Shaping Our Appalachian Region", or SOAR initiative, is taking place Thursday. Ten working groups will be mapping out strategies and preparing to take more suggestions from eastern Kentuckians.
The ten SOAR working groups cover everything from agriculture to broadband to business recruitment. Dentist Nikki Stone with the University of Kentucky Center for Rural Health heads up a group examining health issues. She admits Appalachian Kentucky has some of the worst health conditions in the nation, but also some of the most passionate people with innovative ideas. Stone says some past practices also deserve attention.
"My grandparents lived way up into their 90's. You know, they ate healthier foods. They grew their own foods. They got a lot more exercise than what we're getting now. So, I think if we bring back some of the older traditions, we'll be a healthier group of people," said Stone.
Congressman Hal Rogers and Governor Steve Beshear have announced the creation of a 15-member executive committee to lead their SOAR initiative. They held a joint press conference Monday at Hazard Community College to discuss the appointments. Rogers and the Governor will co-chair the panel, which will be composed of public officials and leaders from the private sector.
The congressman says the group will keep listening to ideas to boost the region’s economy and improve its quality of life.
One of the executive committee’s first tasks will be hiring a permanent director, which it hopes to do by September. SOAR stands for “Shaping Our Appalachian Region” and was created to help eastern Kentucky recover from the slump in the coal industry and the loss of thousands of jobs.