The fourth annual Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) Summit took place on August 4, 2017 in Pikeville at the East Kentucky Expo Center. The Summit included a panel discussion on “Broadband and the Digital Economy” in support of Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers’ (KY-05) vision to bring high speed, high capacity broadband to Eastern Kentucky. Lonnie Lawson, President and CEO of The Center for Rural Development located in Somerset, KY, and a partner in the broadband expansion project known as KentuckyWired was a featured guest panelist.
Lawson was joined by co-panelists Phillip Brown, Executive Director of Kentucky Communications Network Authority (KCNA); Darrel Maynard, President and CEO of Eastern Telephone and Technologies; and Jeff Whitehead, Executive Director of Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP).
The session was led by panel moderator Dr. Jay Box, President of Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS).
Lawson and his fellow panelists discussed the progress and opportunities of the KentuckyWired project, a statewide fiber optic network which will deliver affordable, high-capacity, high-speed broadband access to communities throughout Kentucky.
“KentuckyWired will bring wholesale broadband to the 54 SOAR counties, as well as the rest of the state. Every community in Kentucky will have the ability to connect to the middle mile network,” said Lawson, “This will drive down broadband costs and create jobs where there is more connectivity.”
KentuckyWired is the backbone or “middle mile” of the network. Through its partners, KentuckyWired will provide wholesale network capacity to local providers who can extend “last mile” infrastructure to local homes and businesses. The aim is to increase 21st century jobs and entrepreneurship in Southern and Eastern Kentucky.
Approximately 1,250 people attended the 2017 SOAR Summit to share ideas, resources and to develop new opportunities in the rural communities of Eastern Kentucky’s Appalachia region.
Keynote speakers included UK Men’s Basketball Coach John Calipari; Congressman Hal Rogers; Governor Matt Bevin; Joan Ferrini-Mundy, COO of the National Science Foundation; Max Espinoza, Senior Program Officer for U.S. Policy, Advocacy and Communications for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; John Stephenson, Senior Manager of Public Policy for Amazon Web Services (AWS); and Phillip Brown, Executive Director of the KCNA.
To learn more about SOAR, visit http://soar-ky.org. To learn more about KentuckyWired visit kentuckywire.ky.gov. You may also join our mailing list to receive news and information about KentuckyWired from The Center for Rural Development or contact Larry Combs, Broadband Implementation Manager for The Center, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 606-677-6000.