Once the fiber is finished, Kentucky leaders say, it will connect the commonwealth to the world. That’s the thinking behind KentuckyWired, an ambitious public–private partnership to bring high-speed internet capacity to every corner of the state. The project showcases the promise and the risk in public–private partnerships. Some critics are calling it wishful thinking.
Highways were hard to build in Appalachia. Information highways are no less difficult to realize today. Abundant limestone and dolomite resources make burying fiber-optic cable nearly impossible in parts of Kentucky, especially in the eastern part of the state. Even stringing up broadband from poles is tough to do over mountains. And considering the sparse populations in some Kentucky regions—especially in East Kentucky—there’s no practical incentive to lure companies to make an intensive investment in infrastructure.