Last updated: February 11. 2014 11:29AM - 727 Views
By - nsizemore@civitasmedia.com

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Last week the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to launch an experimental program to allow surplus from the Connect America Fund to go to rural broadband providers that hadn’t previously been eligible for the support. The money will pay for pilot projects to help the FCC learn what approaches work best for expanding broadband service in rural areas. A free webinar, “Learn How to Apply for FCC Rural Broadband Trials” is being offered on Thursday.

Gov. Steve Beshear recently announced a grant to provide broadband access to the eastern Kentucky region, however, that grant did not include Harlan County.

In a press release from the governor he said, “Through the work of Internet providers statewide and the Department for Local Government, Kentucky serves as a national model of how Internet access can enhance the quality of life for individuals, businesspeople and entire communities,” said Beshear. “However, we still have room for improvement, especially in our rural areas. Through the launch of the ‘Coal to Broadband’ program, the Commonwealth is moving one step closer toward ensuring that every Kentuckian has readily available online access.”

Harlan County Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop said he “appreciates” the governor committing money to get eastern Kentucky counties “updated with better broadband services.”

“What we have is pretty good for communicating locally, but if we want to be in competition with the rest of the world we’ll have to have the most modern updated system and that’s what he is trying to do,” said Grieshop. “What that means is the system that was put in several years ago — maybe 15 years, is badly outdated — a good system for communicating with friends, but not really good for industry on a world stage.”

Realizing what a resource this could be for eastern Kentucky and particularly Harlan County, Harlan County Emergency Management Director David McGill said, “This updating would be a great help to police departments with them using their mobile data terminals, computers in their cars. They will be able to run tags, look up warrants right from their vehicle — that would be a great resource for them. It would also be a great resource for emergency management because a lot of stuff we have to look up is on line — dealing with HAZ-MAT chemicals and such. Also, dealing with search and rescue, being able to pull up the Internet is useful in that as well. Right now, sometimes I can do it on my phone and sometimes I have to travel back to my office to get information needed. I can definitely see this being a great resource to eastern Kentucky.”

Harlan County Risk Manager and Economic Development Director Tony Felosi said if the county wants to attract “tech jobs” they will have to “expand their broadband capabilities.”

“Because, what the broadband capabilities do for you is you overcome the geographical disadvantage with the roads,” said Felosi. “With the click of a button you can go from here to China, so to speak, in just milliseconds. So, you will overcome a lot of your geographical disadvantages if you increase your broadband capabilities, in my opinion.”

The term broadband refers to the wide bandwidth characteristics of a transmission medium and its ability to transport multiple signals and traffic types simultaneously. The medium can be coax, optical fiber, twisted pair or wireless.

The National Rural Assembly’s Rural Broadband and Policy Group has extended an invitation to all rural stakeholders to participate in a free national webinar on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in cooperation with the Federal Communications Commission that will explain how to participate in the FCC’s new experiment, the Rural Broadband Trails, a program that will fund projects to bring broadband to rural areas. Space is limited so registration needs to be done as soon as possible.

To register for the free webinar you may visit www.ruralxchange.net

Nola Sizemore may be reached at 606-573-4510, ext. 115, or on Twitter @Nola_hde

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