Recently there has been much talk concerning rural broadband service throughout the commonwealth, or more precisely, the lack of it. There are many areas with insufficient broadband service, and the Kentucky Telecom Association is working with our members and government policy makers at all levels to improve service.
We are striving to find methods to expand and improve high-speed Internet service. This is a critical mission to grow our economy, improve our educational system, provide enhanced health-care options, support public safety, and improve the quality of life for all Kentuckians.
While there is still much work left to do, many areas served by rural telecommunications companies already have modern, high-speed broadband services available. These providers are getting little attention or recognition in the recent discussion of broadband service. They provide service in small, rural communities and are just as active promoting local economic development and educational issues as companies serving our urban communities.
In Kentucky, there are 16 small rural communication providers in our association that are delivering service in all or parts of 53 counties. These companies have invested over $450 million in broadband infrastructure — fiber optic lines and the electronics needed to provide higher Internet speeds demanded by their customers. They have been aggressively modernizing their networks with fiber, and many of them have already built or have planned fiber-to-the-premise projects that provide world-class connectivity.
All of these companies recognize that high-speed Internet connections are transforming our lives in ways that are constantly changing and are committed to providing the bandwidth and services that their customers demand.
The commonwealth's broadband plan, known as the Next Generation Kentucky Information Highway Plan, should recognize and support private communications providers where sufficient high-speed Internet service already exists. Telecom companies, wireless companies and many cable companies continue to invest millions of dollars to upgrade their facilities to provide better broadband services.
To not include them in the plan, or worse, to build duplicate facilities to directly serve their largest customers, will ultimately result in higher rates for other customers and harm their local communities.
Overall, the broadband story reveals that high speed Internet service across the commonwealth is improving in both coverage and speed, yet is clearly lacking in some areas while widely available in others. Our members are fully committed to providing modern infrastructure and services that equal or exceed that provided in urban areas. We stand ready to discuss ways to help move forward.