Low-Population Communities in Kentucky Are Benefiting from Expanded Internet Access
Louisville is the largest city in the state of Kentucky. More than 628,000 people live there, and the population keeps growing. Yet, Kentucky has many less famous places with far, far, fewer residents.
The state of California boasts over 39.5 million inhabitants. But, California, Kentucky, is a little smaller. Just 98 people lived in this little town according to the 2021 Census. Small-town life appeals to many, and it has many gains. However, small-town life has restrictions.
One of which is a lack of services. Small towns will have limited public transport. There is unlikely to be much choice in the way of dining out or shopping. And internet services may be found wanting.
What problems have Kentucky’s low-population areas been experiencing?
Low-population areas often mean towns in rural parts. Sure, some small towns will border more populous suburbs, but many low-population areas are in more remote places. Internet users in remote areas can find themselves without the same high speeds that are enjoyed in highly populated towns and cities.
Getting rural access to the internet in Kentucky is improving. Some local ISPs in Kentucky are dedicated to expanding internet access so low-population communities might also enjoy fast broadband.
Yet, many rural communities still experience internet connection issues such as these:
- Limited choice of ISPs
- Higher subscription costs
- Unstable connections
- Poor mobile coverage
- No broadband
- Reliance on dial-up or satellite
- Slow connections
Because rural areas have lower populations, some ISPs have charged higher monthly fees for access to fast broadband. But, many people in these towns have had to cope with using dial-up and slow speeds or switch to mobile broadband or satellite.
The majority of smartphone users access the net through their devices, but when mobile coverage is already poor in rural areas, this isn’t a reliable option. Satellite internet also has its downsides.
Why has Kentucky’s internet access come to be news?
The arrival of the pandemic brought with it social restrictions and lockdowns. With scattered communities and people living some distance from their neighbors, communication became an issue.
Lockdowns highlighted the division between urban internet users and people living in the countryside. Fast internet access helped families to stay in touch regardless of location. But, residents of rural towns didn’t enjoy such freedoms.
Low-population areas have been overlooked in the past. The larger ISPs may not have seen them as a priority. Financially speaking, urban areas are always going to be more profitable than low-population rural towns.
Nevertheless, something was sparked during this period. And federal funding was pledged. The Biden-Harris administration promised a $2 trillion infrastructure package. The funding was signed off to help rebuild roads, reshape the economy, and expand broadband. The target is to bring broadband access to everyone. The expansion of internet access will lead to rural and tribal lands finally experiencing broadband.
What problems have been caused by limited internet access?
Those outside of low-population areas may have been unaware of what internet access was like for their rural cousins. It became clearer when workers were asked to start teleworking, and health services were cut off from the vulnerable
Lockdowns helped to make remote communities even more remote. And a lack of broadband gave new meaning to remote working.
Without the infrastructure in place for broadband, small communities struggle to grow. Instead of new businesses seeing opportunities, residents relocate elsewhere. This leads to lower populations and less talent.
Slow internet connections hinder businesses and day-to-day operations. Remote workers are unable to take advantage of teleworking without broadband. And simple communication is restricted. 45% of respondents said the internet impacted communication significantly. During the pandemic, many people in rural areas struggled to maintain communications and became isolated due to a lack of broadband.
How are Kentuckian internet users benefitting from newly expanded internet access?
Kentucky’s cities and urban areas have a wide choice of ISPs. The average internet speed in Kentucky is 138 Mbps. Yet, nearly half of Kentucky is classed as rural.
In rural areas, 138 Mbps is a speed that is largely the stuff of dreams. Fortunately, local ISPs have seen the demand for faster rural broadband, and invested in boosting the infrastructure needed
Expanding internet access to remote areas with low populations is bringing a number of benefits to Kentucky and its residents.
Remote workers don’t need to relocate
The majority of remote workers operate from home. Yet, what happens when someone is offered a remote working position but they have no high-speed broadband? Expanded internet access will give rural inhabitants more job opportunities without the need to relocate.
Low-population areas may experience growth
Indeed, instead of talent leaving the area, high-speed internet is helping to attract new residents. Paducah in Kentucky has rolled out an incentive package to entice remote workers to the city. Kentucky hopes to expand its workforce over the next few years, and an improved broadband infrastructure will help.
With a population increase, new businesses will have to meet demand. This creates jobs and generates local revenue.
Improvements in education
Students will have access to online seminars and educational resources. Online tutoring will also be an option for any student regardless if they live in remote Kentucky.
The need for high-speed broadband was highlighted when schools closed down, and students needed to join online classes. The popularity of online learning has continued after the pandemic and is seen as an essential part of furthering education.
Telehealth availability will aid rural inhabitants
As well as education, healthcare was also aided by the internet during lockdowns. Many people found themselves cut off and unable to visit a doctor. For rural communities, this time was even more trying.
Expanding internet access to the smallest populations helps people to link up to telehealth services. Diagnosing patients online saves time and prevents the spread of illness through contact.
Increased online security
Rural inhabitants sometimes turn to satellite internet or shared public WiFi to get online. Both of these methods include some security risks. Using a VPN is one of the basics of online privacy. But, VPNs cannot be used with satellite internet.
And public WiFi might be unsecured. With fixed broadband, users can have their own private connections at home.
Increased entertainment options
Dial-up may help people in rural towns to view emails, but most entertainment options would be out of reach. Rolling out broadband to small towns allows residents to enjoy the same options as other internet users. Fast broadband allows streaming entertainment, downloads, and online gaming.
Increased options and cheaper bundles
With a larger consumer base, ISPs can offer varied bundles involving phone, TV, and internet in one. ISPs will also be capable of lowering prices as take-up will be higher.
The local workforce will benefit
More than 50% of Kentucky is made up of farmland. Farming has made good use of technology, and the Internet is a valuable tool for farmers.
Local businesses and farms will benefit from easier access to broadband. Farmers are reliant on the Internet for communicating with customers.
There are several advantages to living in low-population areas. The air is likely to be cleaner, and traffic won’t be an issue. Small communities are likely to help each other more. And property tends to be far more affordable.
Yet, for all the benefits of small-town life, some problems exist. Broadband access in rural America has been one of the big issues. But, now, Kentucky at least is seeing internet expansion to its smallest populations.