The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that families throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky struggle with unreliable or nonexistent internet connections, forcing students learning from home and those working from home to struggle.
A new initiative in the state hopes to get reliable, high-speed internet to as many people in Kentucky as possible; Governor Andy Beshear said the pandemic has shown how families lacking in a solid internet connection are at a huge disadvantage.
"It's not just important for business but now for school, even after COVID, for health care, with telehealth," said Beshear.
It's a problem Covington knows all too well and has already been working to address since the pandemic forced statewide shutdowns in early 2020.
"We were able to find out that true internet access was relatively limited for a number of families," said Bruce Applegate, assistant city manager of Covington.
After first focusing on ensuring students across the state could be connected to the internet, the Commonwealth is now trying to come up with a plan to overhaul problem areas for everyone. Kentuckians have been asked to take an internet speed test to help state leaders map out which regions have the worst connections.
The state will gather data on internet speeds statewide until Feb. 18.
"Using that map, step three is going to involve leveraging partners, both public and private, to provide broadband coverage in areas that need it," said Kentucky Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman.
Covington has been working on their own program to tray and address these challenges, called Covington Connect. The city partnered with Cincinnati Bell to put up 124 free WiFi hot spots throughout the city, specifically choosing locations with the highest need.
"Because of this Covington Connect initiative, someone out there has been able to get homework done," said Applegate. "Someone has been able to access telehealth for maybe the first time ever."