Beshear: High-quality Broadband Internet Essential Economic Infrastructure for Kentucky Small Businesses, Skilled Workforce

Andy Beshear

 I’m fighting on behalf of every Kentuckian to protect our open internet and to keep broadband and wireless providers from slowing or blocking Kentuckians’ internet service.

My fight includes an attempt to keep federal protections in place that are known as net neutrality. I recently joined other state attorneys general in asking a federal appeals court to vacate and reverse the 2017 rollback of these safeguards by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Kentuckians know that an open internet, like our roads, bridges and utilities, is essential infrastructure in a 21st century economy.

Preserving the freedom of the internet is at the heart of our job creation, health access and education. If we want to create good paying jobs, we must continue to create a highly trained, skilled, educated workforce so our communities can tout their labor force when recruiting new companies, new jobs or expanding existing companies.

Sadly, when internet providers are allowed to halt or slow the transfer of any data, we cannot achieve this goal and will fall behind other states that are requiring broadband companies to adhere to certain internet protections for their citizens and companies.

Take Kentucky’s efforts to create a skilled workforce through its Kentucky Work Ready Community program, created in February of 2012. The program certifies the quality of a county’s workforce based on six criteria specified by site selectors, business and industry leaders, economic developers and local officials.

Counties across the state vie for this renowned status by meeting goals in their communities such as high school graduation rates, community involvement and broadband availability.

It is simple – if every county in Kentucky is going to be “work ready,” we must grow and protect broadband availability.

If current federal internet protections are rolled back, our small businesses and startups companies will suffer.

A Kentucky farming family reached out to my office saying they rely on the internet to find customers and market their products. The repeal of net neutrality has the potential to make their lives “very hard,” they said.

Another Kentuckian who owns a small business said his survival depended on an open internet where he would not have to pay higher rates if these rollbacks are not stopped.

Small businesses, school districts and rural hospitals rely on the internet to help Kentucky families earn a living, educate our children and provide critical medical services in every part of our state.

Our internet infrastructure is just as critical as our roads and bridges, and most folks agree.

In fact, a recent survey found 76 percent of all Americans and 70 percent of small businesses want an open internet, with bipartisan support by both Republicans and Democrats.

This overwhelming agreement is why we must fight the FCC’s dramatic and unjustified departure from internet access that allows us to advance in our daily life.

An open internet breaks down geographic and financial barriers to education and economic development by connecting Kentuckians to the world. A world where we can compete and gain higher paying jobs, collaborate with researchers across the globe, take classes online or access increased medical care.

An open internet is critical to our state’s future – and I will keep fighting because we cannot give the power to slow, change or even shut down our future to a handful of major companies and simply trust they will do the right thing.

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