FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers said Wednesday that the federal government should have a continued role in spreading high-speed Internet access to the struggling coalfields of eastern Kentucky.
The Kentucky Republican said the federal spending bill passed by Congress last week included $10 million to expand broadband access to distressed areas of central Appalachia.
"I'm hopeful that this will be the beginning of federal investments for broadband in our hard-hit coalfields," Rogers told reporters at the Kentucky Capitol.
As chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, Rogers will have an influential voice in trying to direct more federal money to link underserved areas to high-speed broadband service. Rogers' district covers much of eastern Kentucky, which has areas lacking such broadband access.
Rogers expressed support for a plan outlined by Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear on Tuesday to connect all of Kentucky to high-speed Internet service.
Kentucky ranks 46th nationally in high-speed broadband availability, and nearly a quarter of the state's population lacks broadband access, Beshear said.
Most Kentucky households have access to an Internet service provider, but that's not the same as high-speed broadband, state officials said. Broadband is capable of carrying much larger volumes of information to a larger group of users.
They see broadband access as a key economic development tool, essential to luring new businesses to the coalfields and other struggling rural areas.