LEXINGTON, Ky. — The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence and numerous other education, health, business and non-profit organizations are calling for federal funding to make universal internet access available in rural areas and to low-income citizens.
“As businesses and schools have increasingly gone online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become abundantly clear that the internet is as necessary as electricity and plumbing for our daily lives,” said Prichard Committee President & CEO Brigitte Blom Ramsey.
In 2017, census data showed that Kentucky ranked 44th in the nation for broadband access. Nearly 25 percent of Kentucky households do not have a subscription for high-speed internet, and more than 15 percent do not have a computer, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Among households without home internet, one-third say it simply is too expensive. In many rural parts of the state, high-quality internet connections are unreliable or non-existent. Citizens who would like to tell members of congress to support universal internet access may visit prichardcommittee.org to send an email.
“Kentucky’s congressional delegation has a powerful platform to ensure all our families have internet access, and they must do so with urgency,” said Ramsey. “Schools and businesses may be closed, but we must ensure that all of Kentucky’s families have the tools they need to learn and earn online, during the pandemic and beyond.”
Kentucky agencies and organizations advocating for universal internet access alongside the Prichard Committee include the Kentucky Nonprofit Network, the Kentucky Farm Bureau, the Kentucky School Board Association, the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, the Kentucky Association of School Administrators, the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative, 55,000 Degrees, and the Kentucky Primary Care Association. These groups will deliver a letter to members of Kentucky’s congressional delegation in late May. Organizations who wish to sign on are encouraged to contact the Prichard Committee before May 15.
The federal E-Rate program, which has historically made internet funding affordable for schools and libraries, could be a possible vehicle for the funding, according to Ramsey.
“Funding for internet access could also come through another coronavirus relief package, similar to the CARES Act,” said Ramsey. “Regardless of the funding vehicle, ensuring universal access to broadband internet for all families is an imperative.”