Members of the SOAR (Shaping Our Appalachian Region) Executive Board recently heard progress reports from representatives of SOAR’s working groups on key projects identified in a regional blueprint for economic growth.
U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05), co-chairman of SOAR, was joined by Executive Cabinet Secretary Scott Brinkman, filling in for Gov. Matt Bevin, at a SOAR Executive Board meeting on March 1 at Eastern Kentucky University’s regional Manchester campus in Clay County. Rogers and Bevin co-chair the SOAR Executive Board. Brinkman represented the Governor’s Office in Bevin’s absence.
The Executive Board meeting included updates on broadband infrastructure expansion, 21st Century skills, small business growth, healthy communities, industrial development, regional food systems, and tourism.
Lonnie Lawson, President and CEO of The Center for Rural Development and chairman of the SOAR Broadband Working Group, presented a report on progress of the KentuckyWired project.
The KentuckyWired project, which starts first in Eastern Kentucky, was contracted by the commonwealth of Kentucky to bring more than 3,000 miles of high-speed, fiber infrastructure, often referred to as the “middle mile,” to 120 Kentucky counties over the next two years.
“We cannot wait until the ‘middle mile’ gets built to start local, last-mile planning. We have to start now,” Lawson, who also serves as chairman of the Last-Mile Broadband Action Team, told the Executive Board. “The Action Team has been working with SOAR communities to help identify best practices for providing access to affordable broadband in our region.”
The Last-Mile Broadband Action Team is also coordinating with existing and emerging broadband providers in the region to increase broadband access and adoption in the region; tracking the infrastructure progress; coming up with strategies for accessing affordable broadband, and ultimately developing a phased roadmap for community-based last-mile planning.
“Our goal is to give Southern and Eastern Kentucky equal access to the online community and global marketplace,” said Larry Combs, broadband implementation manager for The Center and member of the Last-Mile Broadband Action Team. “We simply cannot expect to compete if we cannot access the same affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband services that so many of our country’s urban centers now experience.”
SOAR has identified the increased availability of affordable, high-speed broadband to businesses and residents in Eastern Kentucky as one of its primary goals outlined in its regional blueprint for economic growth.
To learn more about KentuckyWired, visit kentuckywired.ky.gov or call The Center for Rural Development at 606-677-6000. For news and information about SOAR, go to www.soar-ky.org or contact the SOAR office at 606-766-1160.
The Center for Rural Development is a strategic partner with the Commonwealth of Kentucky in the KentuckyWired project, the statewide broadband infrastructure expansion initiative. We distribute relevant news and event information as it becomes available through our media resources. For more news and information regarding KentuckyWired, please join our mailing list.