The Daily Yonder recently featured a story on Jackson and Owsley, Kentucky: two of the poorest counties in Kentucky. Both counties have access to high speed broadband – up to a Gig. They have access through PRTC, a telephone cooperative that serves both counties.
I’ve written about the impact of cooperatives in Minnesota, especially those that provide serious broadband to their customers. It’s interesting to see how it happened in Kentucky. The article does outline the specifics of how it happened…
In McKee, Wheeler emphasized how Americans work together to ensure that hard-to-serve areas like Jackson and Owsley counties have better access to telecommunications services.
PRTC’s fiber network was funded through a combination of loans from the Department of Agriculture Rural Utility Service, grants that were part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and PRTC’s own earnings and capital. The total project cost was about $50 million. The project will receive indirect support from the Universal Service Fund, which provides telecommunications subsidies for areas that are hard to serve. PRTC received about $5 million in USF support last year.
Wheeler said that’s how it should be.
The article also outlines the ROI for the community…
Jeff Whitehead, executive director of Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, said the high-speed network offered ways to start turning some of those numbers around. EKCEP operates a program that teaches trainees how to work remotely from home. With a high-speed connection now available, trainees are able to find work as call-center or customer-service representatives for companies like UHaul, Apple, and firms that contract with hotels and retailers for customer service.
About 150 people in Jackson County have found jobs through the training program in the last year, Whitehead said.
“What that means is, estimating conservatively, that $3 million in wages are coming into this county from companies that are away from here,” he said.