Since he has served in the position of County Judge Executive of Madison County, Reagan Taylor said expanded, rural broadband infrastructure is something that has been on his mind.
With the onset of COVID-19 and sudden transition to virtual school, work and health appointments, the idea is a bit higher on the list of priorities.
"Just knowing the world of technology is expanding and the internet is going to be, for the next generation, is going to be as important as water and electricity," he told The Register Wednesday. "We have been looking and talking to different people to see how we could expand our service area to rural parts."
To do this, Judge Taylor's office has teamed up with Congressman Andy Barr (KY-06) to introduce the Rural Broadband Expansion Act of 2020 (HR 8368) which allows flexibility within state and local governments to use funding appropriated by Congress in the Coronavirus, Aid, Recovery and Economic Security (CARES) Act for the purposes of rural broadband expansion.
"Rural communities need to have broadband access they can depend on, especially during the pandemic when so many Kentuckians are working and learning remotely," said Congressman Barr. "In Congress, I have made rural broadband access a priority, and this legislation will only further our mission of delivering dependable broadband internet to more Kentuckians and Americans living in rural America."
Taylor hopes this plan is the first step to introduce expanded high speed service to people in both rural and urban areas who need the access now, and longterm.
The judge executive spoke of potential concerns if 20 years down the road, people won't want to buy a home in rural areas such as Poosey Ridge or Red Lick if they can't have access to what will surely become a basic need.
"Then you think about what could that do to that tax base," Taylor said. "Will that lower the tax base? So this is a way for us to efficiently and effectively look at a way to expand and offer that to everyone in the county."
Like so many others, Judge Taylor made a point this concern isn't just one for Madison County, but also the region, the commonwealth and other rural states surrounding it.
And with COVID-19 demanding an increased virtual presence for all households, Taylor believes this pandemic could be a catalyst for more online activity going forward.
"It is going to expand because there will be people, post-COVID who will be working from home more," he explained. "Businesses and companies realized that it maybe more efficient for them to work from home and that kids are able to go to school at home.
"Our parents are having a huge problem with that by not having enough internet or bandwidth to provide themselves with a way to work and their kids with some type of iPad to be in school -- especially for more than one student," he said.
While his hope is to expand broadband to his constituents, both Taylor and Barr know the endeavor is an expensive, and critical one. Which is why they hope to be able to use a portion of allocated emergency funds.
"The ability to use CARES funding as an option is a gamechanger to ensuring our constituents have access for educational, medical, and workplace needs both during the pandemic and in a post pandemic world," Taylor said.
Reach Taylor Six at 624-6695 or follow her on Twitter at @TaylorSixRR.