October 26, 2017
Recently, several news outlets in Kentucky, including SurfKY.com, ran a column by Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions CEO Jim Waters. Waters compares KentuckyWired, the commonwealth’s statewide broadband network, to the “Big Dig,” a Massachusetts roads project that took decades to build and eventually became the most expensive highway project in U.S. history.
Like the “Big Dig,” KentuckyWired is badly behind schedule. Like the “Big Dig,” KentuckyWired has busted through the initial budget outline that state officials set for it.
As Waters explains, KentuckyWired was expected to cost $350 million. That figure, he says, now is likely around $490 million.
The half-billion estimate is probably conservative. As Waters notes, the state and its private sector partners already have spent $200 million to build 19 miles of cable. That’s right: more than $10.5 million per mile.
KentuckyWired is eventually to encompass 3,400 miles. Multiply what’s left to build by $10 million and you get …
A lot more than Kentucky taxpayers can afford.
Waters says, “No one really knows what the final cost will be for KentuckyWired.”
That’s why he thinks it is time for lawmakers to pull the plug, especially since private providers are investing thousands of dollars every day to expand access to more customers in the Bluegrass State. Already, 100 percent of Kentuckians have access to mobile broadband. Nearly 96 percent have access to wireline, including 84 percent who have access to speeds of at least 25 megabits per second. The state is home to more than 175 broadband providers.
Waters notes that “Even if Kentucky Wired gets fully built from Paducah to Pikeville, it in and of itself will not connect a single previously unconnected individual, home or business.”
How’s that for $500 billion (or more)?
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