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Collaboration is Key: NCC Weighs in on the Importance of Broadband Access to Economic Development in the Bluegrass

Downtown Lexington, Kentucky

Lexington is located in Fayette County, Kentucky, which has a relatively large amount of broadband deployment. In fact, Lexington is one of the largest Gigabit Cities in the country. Yet, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that only about 84% of households have a home broadband subscription. Because the FCC’s data overstate broadband availability and do not include information about pricing or actual speeds, it is difficult to know exactly where the gaps in coverage are, which creates a challenge for state and local policymakers. 

On December 7, 2020, Commerce Lexington kicked off THE COLLECTIVE, a Regional Summit focused on economic development challenges in the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky. The last panel of the day featured Next Century Cities research related to reducing the digital divide in Kentucky. Bob Quick, President and CEO of Commerce Lexington, served as the moderator. Panelists included Aldona Valicenti, Chief Innovation Officer for the City of Lexington; Francella Ochillo, Executive Director of Next Century Cities; Corian Zacher, Policy Counsel for Local and State Initiatives at Next Century Cities; and Jason Keller, Vice President of Government Affairs and Regulatory Strategies for Charter Communications. 

Panelists discussed the importance of accurate mapping for state and federal funding opportunities and offered several examples of ways that local leaders have overcome that challenge. In response to a question about Lexington’s work improving broadband capacity, Aldona Valicenti rightly noted, “Collaboration is key.” 

Lexington’s partnership with MetroNet is one example. When the project began in 2015, MetroNet did not expect to expand into rural areas. Now that its work in Lexington is complete, MetroNet is branching into other communities in Kentucky. Most recently, the City of Versailles, which has a population of less than 10,000, joined Lexington in becoming a Gigabit City. Still, there are people in Gigabit Cities who do not have a home broadband subscription because it is too expensive. While several programs are available, such as private low-price plans and the FCC’s Lifeline consumer subsidy or a state equivalent, the programs are not widely advertised and many consumers who are eligible are not enrolled. 

Local and state governments across the country are rising to the challenges presented by inaccurate broadband mapping and high prices in innovative and thoughtful ways that expand opportunities for their residents. If you are interested in participating in future events, NCC provides opportunities for local officials and community leaders to share their experience. If you are interested in offering your perspective, please reach out to an NCC team member for more information. 

Review the fact sheet on Fayette County, Kentucky, here

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