Gov. Andy Beshear on Monday announced an initial round of $203 million in investments to expand broadband service as part of an ambitious effort to close Kentucky's digital divide.
The investments will be split into 46 grant awards to 12 internet service providers and local governments spanning more than 30 counties. The infusion will deliver reliable internet to more than 34,000 Kentucky families and businesses, the governor said. Beshear said he thinks it ranks as the "single-largest provision of funding" for high-speed internet in Kentucky history.
"Everybody needs it," he told a news conference. "Everybody deserves to have access to it."
The investments include $89.1 million from the state's share of federal pandemic aid that state lawmakers earmarked for broadband expansion, Beshear said. Grant recipients pledged to match the state's contributions, raising total investments beyond $203 million.
"High-speed, reliable internet is not just the infrastructure of the future, it’s the necessary infrastructure right now," the governor said. "It’s just as important as roads, bridges. And today is a key part of our plan to build a better Kentucky. And it will be critical to the success of our state’s economy and to future job creation."
State Budget Director John Hicks called it the "first chapter of many chapters" as the state distributes funding to expand broadband service to unserved and underserved areas.