While I applaud Lexington officials exploring options to begin building pockets of new broadband infrastructure, city planners, elected officials and even the community have options for immediate impact to Central Kentucky:
Consider asking Internet providers of Central Kentucky for coverage maps and holes in the coverage. Next should be overlaying what is actual quality broadband, not a token pair of copper wires connected to oversubscribed infrastructure. Lastly, encourage competing carriers into the area that will drive down the cost.
Broadband has become a basic necessity; it is time to start holding Internet providers to similar standards of quality and coverage that you would expect from utility providers when we turn on water faucets or plug in televisions.
I recently had a technology startup acquired. Pulling off a successful startup without moving to Silicon Valley can be tricky, but to do this with horrible connectivity from my oversubscribed DSL circuit is painful.
I have flown to San Francisco for a one-hour presentation numerous times because a remote presentation on my broadband isn't capable of handling even the smallest of loads to stream video and share some slides.
Mind you this is only 15 minutes south of Lexington in Jessamine County; it's even worse up the side of a mountain in Eastern Kentucky. To top it off, we don't even have a cable option to my neighborhood because there is not a good enough business case for the cable company to provide service to my subdivision of 18 homes.
At the heart of the problem in the U.S. is the lack of competition due to legacy incumbents' ability to protect their turf and the high cost of entry required to build and invest in telcom infrastructure projects.
There are plenty of ways providers get away with claiming they have sufficient broadband coverage. Advertising and contracting to provide 6 megabites per second DSL and then only providing 1 mbps during peak hours is an age-old tactic. It's called peak hours because that's when people are likely to actually use the service the most; the result is a peak failure for all involved.
Unless we and our elected officials are waiting for Google to come save us with the thousands of other cities that all submit their proposals each time the company looks to add a new city, it's time to start holding providers in our own backyard to account.
Even in the slim chance an angel-like investor such as Google was to make the investment in Kentucky, it would be in urban markets only, which leaves large swaths of us out of luck.
New creative initiatives are great, but even of they are wildly successful, they would be measured in decades and need to look well beyond only schools and libraries to the residents' curb.
The benefits of broadband should be apparent to most at this point. Whether it's the unemployed taking free classes delivered via the Internet to improve their families' quality of life, grandparents trying to have a video call to see their grandbaby in another state or simply watching a video on Netflix, the deciding factor for them being able to do so is if there is a business case with enough profit for the provider to invest in your area.
While there have been surprisingly important initiatives of late from the Federal Communications Commission — one being to reclassify broadband from 6 to 25 mps — there is still a critical role to be filled by the community and government leaders willing to understand the complexities of the problem and make their voices heard.
Technology is reinventing the global economy in ways only comparable to the Industrial Revolution of the early 1800s. Kentucky can choose to be part of the evolution or pay the economic price of inaction, or worse, pass it to the next generation.
Reach Brent Salisbury on Twitter @networkstatic.