March 3, 2016
In an opinion column that ran in several Kentucky papers this past week, Bluegrass Institute President Jim Waters argues Kentucky lawmakers should pull the plug on KentuckyWired, the statewide, taxpayer-funded, government-owned broadband network.
Waters notes that consumers in Kentucky are already well-served by private sector Internet Service Providers (ISPs), pointing out that 93 percent have access to wireline service and 99 percent have access to wireless service. (Waters also notes, “Only 162,000 of the Bluegrass State’s 4.4 million residents lack access to broadband.”)
Because the state is already well served, Waters argued it is wasteful to spend more than $50 million in taxpayer money on KentuckyWired. Waters asks, “Shouldn’t policymakers focus on providing services not covered by the private sector instead of wasting tax dollars on building duplicate infrastructure like KentuckyWired?”
Waters also questions whether KentuckyWired will well serve the state’s consumers, arguing the network may have a “chilling” effect on private sector broadband infrastructure investment. Waters recommends, “State lawmakers instead should search for ways to eliminate barriers to additional investment by private ISPs instead of raiding their customer base.”
Finally, Waters also argues the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) standard for what most households need for broadband is “debatable.” He noted the FCC’s decision to use download speeds of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) to define “high-speed” “was enacted on an extremely partisan 3-2 vote” and with just “the stroke of a pen” the FCC “quintupled the nation’s broadband standard, thus ruling that one-fifth of the nation did not ‘have’ broadband.” Waters concludes, “[T]hat three federal bureaucrats operating out of some concrete building in Washington, D.C., don’t know more than we Kentuckians about what the Bluegrass State needs.”
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