News and Music Discovery
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What the AT&T Bill Means for Rural Kentuckians and Broadband Access

Kaylan Thompson, WKMS

The so-called 'AT&T bill' passed this year by the Kentucky legislature will give the company more freedom from regulations when placing lines for home phone service, which can now include broadband, says Michael Ramage, director of Murray State's Center for Telecommunications Systems Management. Kate Lochte speaks with Ramage on Sounds Good about how this may mean greater broadband connectivity for rural Kentuckians.

Ramage says telecom policy at the state and federal level was built for telephone, not broadband. Since we're now in a broadband world, companies like AT&T have been trying to push state and federal policy makers forward to think about things in a more globally-connected context.

The bill allows AT&T to get out of some regulations in the Public Service Commission. One of the requirements of an incumbent service is to provide regular telephone service to every customer. Ramage uses the example, if you were to build a house in the back of a 100 acre farm, they are required to put in a telephone line. But new subscribers may not have a home phone service or even want one. In this bill, phone service is still provided but companies now have the freedom to choose a service that makes more sense, like broadband or mobile or voice-over IP.

One of the more hotly debated sides of the bill was the question as to whether it takes away consumers ability to complain about service. Ramage says the intent of the bill is to allow the consumer the right to still complain, consumer advocacy requirements are still there particularly in areas where there are less than 15,000 homes.

When will rural Kentuckians see more broadband connectivity? AT&T has increased work across the state, postings for new job openings indicate this. When it comes to your house might be sooner rather than later, Ramage says. Because the United States is very geographically diverse, it's difficult to have a well-connected broadband infrastructure like some smaller European countries, but it's a work in progress.

Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
Related Content