Potential Solutions to Rural Broadband Internet Deployment

Kirk Atkinson, Western Kentucky University

Document Type Article

Presented at the May 2007 Academic Business World International Conference, Opryland Hotel, Nashville, Tennessee. He was subsequently selected, through a peer review process, for the Presentation Excellence Award.


Broadband availability in rural areas continues to be a major topic of concern in many areas of the country but especially in our rural communities. Several grassroots organizations, including the Wireless Communication Association International and the Rural Broadband Coalition, were created for the sole purpose of closing the “Digital Divide” for underserved Americans. Government should support efforts to offer broadband to the masses, but in some cases special legislation is required to pave the way. In Kentucky, the Supreme Court rendered an August 2005 decision that may have severely hindered broadband deployment by restricting rural electric cooperatives from providing any service other than that of electricity. It is unclear whether this decision adversely affected rural cooperative’s plans to pursue providing high-speed Internet to their constituents but it certainly caused them to their entrance into a less than competitive market for rural areas.

Reacting relatively quickly to this decision the Kentucky Legislature passed legislation that empowered these organizations to once again offer services like Internet, long distance telephone, and propane gas service (ConnectKentucky, 2006).