Getting wired in Kentucky

According to this article, a recent study found that 33% of homes in Kentucky do not have computers, and 40% do not have internet access. But, this is a slight improvement from last year, when the findings were 35% and 45% respectively. The study also found that 32% have broadband at home, up from 22% a year ago.

According to the article, the study was done by ConnectKentucy, a "public-private group that wants state money to expand computer and Internet use."

ConnectKentucky recommended that the legislature establish a pool of about $15 million for loans and grants to technology companies to expand broadband -- or high-speed access -- in areas without service.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher included $2 million for the pool in his proposed state budget. Fletcher spokesman Mike Goins said other budget items got a higher priority.

Kentucky ranked 41st among states in the percentage of households without computers in the latest Census data on computer access, taken in 2003. Indiana ranked 37th.

States all across the South need to look at this. I have long said that broadband internet access to every person, home, business, and school in the U.S. should be a top national priority, similar to FDR's "Rural Electrification" in the 1930's. Given President Bush's proclivity for comparing himself to FDR, maybe this is something Bush should take on.

Such a project will require massive public funding. We've been waiting ten years for the phone and cable companies to build out their facilities. Instead, they cherry-pick areas where they can get the most return on their investment. Despite their civic duty to provide adequate services in exchange for government subsidized public right of ways and mostly exclusive monopolies in the areas they serve, in the end it comes down to business decisions that benefit their shareholders. And there's nothing necessarily wrong with that per se -- that's how capitalism works. Which is why the government will have to get involved.

OK, then.