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Better internet access is coming to thousands of Kentuckians with over $180M investment

Kentucky is set to receive over $182 million in federal money to fund projects that would provide reliable broadband access to areas of the state that lack high-speed internet.

The money will go toward infrastructure projects that will ultimately connect an estimated 45,000 homes in Kentucky, said Gov. Andy Beshear, who announced the funds on Thursday in a press call along with federal officials from the U.S. Treasury.

“A lot of these areas are unserved right now,” Beshear said. “And they need this technology to take advantage of all the great opportunities we have coming our way. Expanding access to reliable fast internet is going to improve the lives of Kentucky families, and it’s going to support our future economic growth.”

The funding — originating in the federal Capital Projects Fund — will go into the Kentucky Broadband Deployment Fund, a pre-existing state program that has already dispersed money for broadband projects via competitive grants.

“Rural areas and urban areas can apply for it and we hope that they do,” Beshear said.

With the addition of Thursday’s announcement, the state has made available about $600 million in broadband expansion funds since June, Beshear said. The money is available to service providers and local governments to construct broadband infrastructure projects.

Internet service providers that secure a piece of the funding announced on Thursday will participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program, a Federal Communications Commission program that subsidizes monthly internet costs for low-income households, a press release announcing the funds said.

“This is a lifeline that can improve our lives, our standard of living,” Beshear said. “And it’s as important as any road or bridge that’s out there. So better internet is just a key part of our plan to build a better Kentucky.”

Just over half of U.S. adults making less than $30,000 a year have access to broadband internet at home, a Pew Research study conducted in early 2021 showed.

The increasing switch to digital environments in both work and school during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic often limited job and educational opportunities for those who lacked broadband access. A separate Pew study in 2020 found that 40% of low-income U.S. parents said their children needed public Wi-Fi to complete their schoolwork because they lacked a reliable connection at home.

The federal Capital Projects Funds was created as part of the American Rescue Plan Act in 2021. The $10 billion fund has sent money to 30 states since June. On the same call, federal officials also announced allocations of broadband funds for Nevada, Alabama and Texas.