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Waters: “If The Private Sector Can Do The Job, Let It”

December 5, 2017

Jim Waters of Kentucky’s Bluegrass Institute has written another excellent column about KentuckyWired, the statewide, government-owned broadband network Coalition for the New Economy (CNE) readers have heard so much about. (See CNE’s most recent KentuckyWired coverage here, here, and here.) In the Bowling Green Daily News, Waters asks, “If you can find a service offered by the private sector” in the Yellow Pages, “why should government step in and attempt to offer” it?

The answer, Waters says, is that the government shouldn’t—even when it comes to a vital service like broadband.

Waters argues government simply is not the “best entity to provide” broadband. The KentuckyWired “boondoggle,” which is “behind schedule, over cost and badly managed” is evidence of that, Waters believes. Waters likens KentuckyWired and other municipal networks to the cafeteria in the United States Senate, “which lost so much money” that it eventually was privatized.

The private sector is better equipped to provide broadband, Waters says. To illustrate, he points to the fact that some Kentucky communities have turned to the private sector to provide traditional utility services such as water. For example, Lexington residents get their water from Kentucky American Water, a private company that serves more than 300,000 customers. Lexingtonians prefer this option. Eleven years ago, they overwhelmingly voted to keep the local government from using eminent domain to condemn the company.

Kentucky American Water also jumped in a few years ago when the town of Millersburg, Ky. could no longer afford to provide water service. Waters said, the agreement between the town and the company “not only yielded a stronger, sustainable financial posture for Millersburg, but it allowed the community to refocus its resources in ways that have allowed it to recover from the devastation of losing” mining jobs.

Waters concludes, “The lesson for those seeking to build a government-funded statewide broadband network … can be found in the Yellow Pages test: if the private sector can do the job, let it.”