Gov. Asa Hutchinson today released a plan to deliver broadband connectivity to most towns in Arkansas by 2022.
In a release, he said the goal is to deliver high-speed Internet accessibility to all communities with 500 or more people. High speed is defined as a rate of 25 megabits per second for download and 3 megabits per second for upload.
Cost? Not specifically estimated. A range of federal programs for grants and loans are listed and “public-private partnerships” are touted. The state has created a broadband office and there is a fund created by a charge placed on all phone bills that is distributed among phone companies that can be used in improving access.
Hutchinson said his plan can be used to help those seeking federal money.
Pro Publica has been reporting within the last few days on the $1.5 billion disaster that has been Kentucky’s effort to extend wireless connectivity to rural areas.
Despite spending hundreds of millions of state and federal dollars, Kentucky still lags behind other states in providing high-speed internet access to its residents.
The state’s signature effort to catch up — an ambitious statewide broadband project known as KentuckyWired that was launched with bipartisan support five years ago — is well behind schedule and more than $100 million over budget, a joint investigation by the Courier Journal and ProPublica reveals. So far, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has offered no solution to the boondoggle he inherited.
State officials estimate that a little over one-third of KentuckyWired’s more than 3,000 miles of fiber-optic cable has been installed. The state’s private sector partners don’t give the precise location of much of that cable.
State Auditor Mike Harmon conservatively estimates that Kentucky taxpayers over the next 30 years will be on the hook for $1.5 billion — 50 times what they were originally told the project would cost them. That’s because the state quietly assumed most of the risk for this public-private partnership in the closing weeks of the previous Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration, Harmon said in his September 2018 report on the project.
Kentucky’s example might help others avoid pitfalls. Much has been made of one Kentucky utility’s use of a mule, Old Bub, to string fiber optic cable.