Much of the opposition to such common-sense reforms of Kentucky’s telecom regulations usually comes from those who oppose any move to lessen government regulation hindering the private sector, particularly if such a move benefits a corporation like AT&T or Verizon.
However, it’s not just corporate types who favor clearing out the underbrush of antiquated telecom regulatory mandates, which would encourage telecom giants to invest resources in improving the commonwealth’s wireless infrastructure. Educators in rural Kentucky who see the vital necessity of providing adequate Internet access to their students also are speaking out in favor of the reforms approved recently by the state Senate and sent to the House.
In a jointly written op-ed in Friday’s Courier-Journal, Lee County Superintendent Jim Evans and William Owens, the chairman of Lee County’s school board, said the reforms proposed and approved by the Kentucky Senate recently would stimulate the kind of investment that gives their rural students access to broadband and wireless technologies:
Although our students do have the necessary Internet connections at school to complete assignments and classwork, most do not have access to broadband and wireless technologies outside the classroom as this service is not available countywide. Our students’ learning opportunities should not be limited, based on the area in which they live. It is imperative that every county has access to broadband and wireless technologies throughout so that all students can successfully compete in a global economy.
While educators continue seeking ways to utilize the newest technologies, policymakers must concentrate on stimulating increased investments in those same technologies. Decades ago, rural electrification and universal telephone service were vital for the economic future of people and communities throughout Appalachia and Eastern Kentucky. Broadband carries that game-changing potential today.
The Kentucky General Assembly is currently considering a bill which updates old laws that were enacted when a rotary dial telephone was state of the art. Senate Bill 99 will enable traditional communications companies to invest even more in the broadband and wireless technologies which can have the greatest impact on education.
Access to digital learning is important to all Kentucky students. If inner-city urban students should not be denied equal access to a quality education because of their zip codes, neither should students — just because they happen to live in a rural area — be hindered by a government regulation that protects the status quo while stifling learning opportunities for many.