A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Harold Tomlinson: Rural internet infrastructure lacking but improvement is coming soon

During this unprecedented time, we can see around us our many blessings, as well as our challenges. Carroll County is filled with traits that make life here great – friendly faces, recreational activities, beautiful landscape, and an unyielding work ethic, to name a few. It offers a small-town lifestyle while being within an hour of Kentucky’s three largest metropolitan areas. Carroll County is blessed with strong, vibrant locally owned businesses alongside our large and successful industries that have located here because of our many strengths.

Although we are certainly blessed, we still face many serious challenges that become more glaring during this COVID-19 pandemic including a lack of county-wide, affordable and reliable broadband internet. We’re not alone; rural communities across Kentucky face the same issue. Absent dependable internet, we will simply come up short in such areas as economic development, education, health care, and public safety. Now is not the time for us to come up short.

Judge Executive Harold ‘Sonny’ Tomlinson

However, I am encouraged that a major step in creating reliable internet service statewide – the KentuckyWired project – is nearly complete across the entire commonwealth. In our area, the project will be completed in the fall. In fact, General Butler State Park is already connected to the high-speed internet service.

KentuckyWired is a “middle-mile” project; ultimately enabling businesses and individual families to connect to the KentuckyWired cable via their local internet service providers. Continued long-term support of KentuckyWired is vitally important to Carroll County, as well as to small towns and other rural areas throughout the region.

Our current spotty internet availability has been brought to the forefront through the COVID-19 crisis. Area elementary, middle and high school students, sent home because of the pandemic, struggle to complete school assignments online. Students, teachers, and faculty of Carrollton’s JCTC campus face the same struggles.

Healthcare providers are urging patients to use telemedicine to minimize in-person medical interactions and limit the risk of exposure to the coronavirus. We will surely see this trend continue after quarantine restrictions are lifted. But providers and patients are finding internet services lacking in large swaths of the golden triangle. First responders also stand to benefit from faster, always-reliable internet connections.

Right now, even though our courthouse and judicial center are closed, justice must continue. Our judges, attorneys, and other judicial system participants are using online video conferences for witness testimony, pre-trial conferences and many other parts of the process. Yet, even though they have access to the internet, the speed and reliability is not adequate, and they often run into issues. Every citizen is granted the right to a fair and speedy trial – the justice system can’t push pause during a pandemic.

This issue extends well beyond the COVID-19 outbreak. High-speed internet is a “must-have” in order to recruit and retain companies and create jobs. Companies such as North American Stainless, Dow, and Nucor Steel all see the value of our workforce and location that offers easy access to the Ohio River, railroads, I-71, and UPS in Louisville and Amazon’s Prime Air Hub in Northern Kentucky. Yet, I’m sorry to say we lost one company in part because we did not have adequate internet infrastructure to reach their location. Many Carroll County farmers struggle with limited connectivity, as well.

Consider how attractive Carroll County would be to industry and future economic growth if we can get this final piece of the puzzle in play.

Carroll County citizens, as well as residents throughout central and northern Kentucky, embrace and utilize technology every day in their work, education and social interactions. Yet, too often, we miss opportunities because of limited internet access – especially in rural areas. During the challenging times ahead, we cannot afford missed opportunities. Improved connectivity with the help of KentuckyWired is an opportunity we should all support.

Harold “Shorty” Tomlinson is Carroll County Judge-Executive.

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One Comment

  1. James Allen says:

    How exactly will individual families connect to this network if local Internet Service Providers do not choose to work with Kentucky Wired?

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