Red Bird Mission Urges Kentucky Public Service Commission to Expand Broadband to Unserved, Appalachian Communities

April 5, 2021

On Monday, the Executive Director of Red Bird Mission and Red Bird Clinic Kari Collins penned an op-ed in the Lexington Herald-Leader urging leaders in Frankfort and at the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) to expand affordable broadband service to rural Kentucky communities who need it most. Specifically, she calls on the PSC to enact a suite of commonsense solutions currently under review that would modernize the rules that govern how broadband providers access utility poles.

You can read Kari Collins’ full op-ed below.

Insufficient Broadband Access is Hurting Kentucky’s Appalachian Communities

Kari Collins | Lexington Herald-Leader | April 5, 2021

For a century, Red Bird Mission, Inc. has provided quality educational services in southeast Kentucky, regardless of the family’s ability to pay, for some of the most rural, isolated, and distressed communities in Bell, Clay, and Leslie counties. Through this work, we understand the critical role that education plays to advance economic success, health, and well-being, and in particular, how important affordable broadband access is to a successful educational experience for students and their families. Meeting the needs of the communities we serve has, and remains, central to the work of Red Bird Mission. The experiences during the COVID pandemic has taught us that hardware is insufficient, and more importantly access to broadband is essential for students to achieve academic progress in the virtual classroom. We cannot afford to let any student fall behind because of limited broadband infrastructure.

Likewise families in our area have struggled to access much needed resources, services and information, as the world around us has moved to online applications and communications. This has become a growing concern throughout this pandemic. Many families without broadband access have simply gone without resources and have suffered. In addition, in order to build jobs for the unemployed, underemployed and displaced workers, broadband access is critical. Without the broadband infrastructure, those living in these communities cannot participate in the growing “work from home” opportunities or build an entrepreneurial small business.

With the lack of a robust broadband infrastructure, schools, businesses, health care providers and homes in our rural areas will continue to go without the connectivity others take for granted. This is why we are asking our leaders in Frankfort and at the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) to take the necessary steps to help expand affordable service to those who need it. The legislature’s recent allocation of $300 million in federal funding for broadband projects in underserved areas of Kentucky is a promising step forward for expanding connectivity. Further, we urge members of the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) to build on these efforts by enacting the suite of commonsense solutions it is actively reviewing that would modernize the rules that govern how broadband providers access utility poles. These rules can speed the availability of high-speed internet to Kentuckians by establishing a fair process for replacing antiquated wooden poles. By eliminating the burdensome and costly barriers to building the rural broadband networks, we believe that investment and expansion will occur to our “last mile” communities that need it most.

Our leaders can help move us one step closer to closing the gap for more of rural Kentucky, creating educational and economic equity for the future and ushering in a more prosperous future for the entire Red Bird valley and beyond.

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