Perry County Internet access not up to speed

Gwendolyn Holliday Staff Reporter gjoseph@civitasmedia.com

March 18, 2014

HAZARD—This month marks the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web; the system of interlinked hypertext documents used to access the Internet. The Internet has improved by leaps and bounds since it first went public with users now able to take college classes online and earn 4-year degrees, work from the comfort of their own home, and access a wide variety of information, books and movies previously unavailable to them—that is, unless you live in Southeastern Kentucky.

Perry Countians may not be able to use all these things that are accessible to them because they are still using either dial-up Internet, or their so-called broadband service does not have the capability to provide these services due to their location.

Internet availability in many parts of Perry County is limited to dial-up service which is not fast enough to power much of today’s technology. The availability of broadband in parts of the county may not be as much of an issue as the speed of the service that is provided. Much of what is touted as broadband Internet does not provide the speed necessary.

“Only 7.9 percent of the total population (of the county) did not have access to broadband in 2010 with four unique providers. Also, according to household adoption level data collected by the FCC, 60-80% of households had wired broadband,” said Dee Davis, president for the Center for Rural Strategies.

According to a report released last year by the University of Kentucky Center for Business and Economic Research, 67 percent of Kentucky homes had access to broadband internet. The problem with these numbers is that they are not consistent across the board, often varying greatly between reports, Davis said.

With the economic stress that Eastern and Southeastern Kentucky has been under, the availability of high-speed Internet access could open up many job possibilities for the population, Davis continued. Many companies are moving toward a work from home approach that would allow people to have a customer service or tech-support based job from their home if they have the resources to do so. With technology providing more and more support in all types of workplaces, many companies will not even look at locating a business in the area without the high-speed Internet access they require.

However, Eastern Kentuckians may soon have faster download speeds and better access to broadband Internet. Governor Steve Brashear and U.S. Representative Hal Rogers plan to link millions in state bonds, federal and private resources to expand broadband Internet services in Kentucky. Eastern Kentuckians will have the benefit of being the first area to receive funding.

This improvement will help to finally get Eastern Kentucky up to speed with the rest of the country and on track to attract the kinds of businesses necessary to this area to relieve the economic slump.

Gwendolyn Holliday can be reached at 606-436-5771, or at @HazardHerald