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Kentucky Press News Service
Gov. Steve Beshear joined Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers today to announce an ambitious state and federal investment to extend critically-needed high-speed broadband Internet access to the furthest reaches of the Commonwealth.
The underserved eastern Kentucky region will be the first priority area for the project, which will be supported by $60 million in state bonds and $40 million in federal and private sources.
“Access to high-speed and high-quality Internet is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity in the 21st century economy. Businesses and schools demand it,” said Beshear. “Our communities that lack reliable high-speed access will lag behind in economic development, distance learning and advanced health technologies, and that’s unacceptable.”
“The new ‘Super I-way’ will level the playing field,” said Rogers. “It takes away our historic barriers to better jobs, the difficult terrain and isolation. All of a sudden, the world is flat and the famed superior work ethic of our people will be able to compete with the world from home.”
Currently, Kentucky ranks 46th in high-speed broadband Internet availability. Nearly a quarter of the Commonwealth’s population -- 23 percent -- have no access to broadband. The Next Generation Kentucky Information Highway will offer affordable and accessible high-speed broadband to reduce the barriers of geography for businesses and citizens.
The Commonwealth will partner with the Center for Rural Development for the first phase of the project in eastern Kentucky, leveraging various federal funds and private investment to attain access throughout the region. The Center has initiated a feasibility study that will be complete in the next several weeks outlining the costs and plans of meeting eastern Kentucky’s broadband needs.
“I want to thank Gov. Beshear and Congressman Rogers for their leadership in giving the people of Eastern Kentucky a reason to hope and to have a brighter future,” said House Speaker Greg Stumbo. “Projects like this are crucial, because high-speed internet is an absolute must for our region to succeed in economic development, education, healthcare and elsewhere.”
“Bringing high-speed internet to Eastern Kentucky will, in essence, flatten the mountains and put our region on a level playing field with the rest of the state," said Senate President Robert Stivers. "This access is a critical step in strengthening our region, as we set out to do in the SOAR conference.”
Internet access isn’t high-speed broadband
Most households in the state have access to an Internet Service Provider (ISP), but that’s not the same as high-speed broadband. Broadband is considered “always on”, and is capable of carrying much larger amounts of information to a larger group of users.
As the federal definition of broadband changes, and minimum speed increases (often in megabits per second, or MBS), Kentucky falls further behind because the service available to citizens does not meet these minimum qualifications.
Today, only about half of the state’s households use broadband service, and nearly one-quarter can’t access broadband at all.
“That’s not acceptable,” said Beshear. “We cannot get companies to even consider locating in an area that doesn’t have broadband. This is just one reason high-speed broadband Internet is important for the entire economy of Kentucky, not just urban areas.”
Next Generation Kentucky Information Highway to expand fiber infrastructure
The initial phase of the Next Generation Kentucky Information Highway project, estimated to cost approximately $100 million, could take up two to three years to build nearly 3,000 miles of fiber infrastructure, which is often referred to as the “middle” mile.
The project will incorporate the current and best available technology at a speed of up to 100 gigabits per second. Where available, existing fiber will be used.
“This world-class Internet infrastructure will bring high-speed Internet, or broadband, closer to communities throughout the state,” said Lori H. Flanery, secretary of the Finance and Administration Cabinet. “It opens up possibilities for Kentuckians to connect with the world at the highest speeds available, allowing them to truly participate in today’s global environment.”
Since 2010, the Kentucky Office of Broadband Outreach and Development in the Finance and Administration Cabinet has focused on identifying and mapping areas across the state that are unserved or underserved by affordable broadband service. Using that information and working with public partners, such as the Council on Postsecondary Education, along with private providers, the Finance and Administration Cabinet provided guidance to the governor about the Next Generation Kentucky Information Highway project.
The initiative will be a partnership of government at all levels and the private sector. The private-public partnership – often referred to as a P3 – allows the state to leverage resources to fill service gaps.
“This investment by the Commonwealth will pay dividends for years to come,” Beshear said. “Much like previous generations’ efforts to build our sewer and water systems, the electric grid and paved highways, this initiative will solidify Kentucky’s place in the new global economy.”
A number of obstacles have prevented the full expansion of high-speed broadband into every home and business. Those issues include:
· Sparse population: It’s a numbers game. When there’s not enough population to allow the service provider to get a return on investment, expansion doesn’t take place.
· Affordability: Kentucky has a significant number of people who are at or near the poverty threshold. Broadband typically costs $20 or more per month, making it a luxury many Kentuckians assume they can’t afford.
· Attitude: Many people have access and can afford high-speed broadband, but choose not to subscribe because they think they don’t need it.
Initial Steps Underway
The Finance and Administration Cabinet is receiving responses to a request for proposal from consultants who are interested in working on the Next Generation Kentucky Information Highway project. The consultant will validate cost estimates and provide guidance on the most efficient and effective way to proceed with the project.
The project is slated to begin in eastern Kentucky, closely aligning the state’s efforts with the Center for Rural Development and the “S.O.A.R.: Shaping Our Appalachian Region initiative in created by Beshear, Rogers and other local and state leaders in that region.
Beshear and Rogers organized the SOAR Summit to gather ideas and recommendations about how to move Kentucky’s Appalachian region forward. The SOAR Summit, held in Pikeville on Dec. 9, attracted more than 1,700 Kentuckians. Its report, released last week, is available online at http://www.governor.ky.gov/SOAR and through state libraries.
Since the summit, Gov. Beshear has helped announce the recent federal designation of a Promise Zone in eastern Kentucky, the four-laning of the Mountain Parkway, a $2.6 million business loan pool for the region and USDA StrikeForce designation for rural area investments in eastern Kentucky.
The Administrative Office of the Courts introduced eFiling to Kentucky state courts this week by accepting the first electronic case filings at its test site in the office of Franklin County Circuit Court Clerk Sally Jump in Frankfort. The first case was filed Monday, Dec. 16, with a total of six cases filed as of today.
“This week’s electronic filings were the critical first step in providing eFiling to the legal community,” Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr. said. “Moving from a paper-based environment to one that is primarily electronic will transform the way Kentucky courts do business. The cost savings to the court system will be substantial and the state’s entire legal system will become more efficient when we process court cases electronically.”
Franklin County is a proof-of-concept site, which means that limited functions are being tested before the full eFiling program is rolled out in the pilot phase. The site will initially process only civil cases filed in Circuit Court. The Franklin County Office of Circuit Court Clerk is located in the new Franklin County Judicial Center at 222 St. Clair St. in Frankfort.
The AOC trained more than 10 attorneys from Franklin County to take part in this early testing.
“This launch begins a two-year process that should see eFiling in all 120 counties by the end of 2015,” AOC Director Laurie K. Dudgeon said. “I’m looking forward to Kentucky catching up with the federal courts and the other state courts that have been providing this valuable service for years.”
The proof-of-concept stage will prepare the AOC to set up pilot sites in a dozen or more Kentucky counties in 2014. The AOC will test all eFiling functions in the pilot counties for several months before beginning to implement the system statewide.
eFiling is part of the Judicial Branch’s comprehensive, multiyear eCourt program. The goal is to update Kentucky’s aging court technology to meet the demands on the court system and enable the courts to stay current with the mainstream of law and commerce.
The eCourt program will also upgrade the court system’s technology infrastructure (hardware and software), replace its case management systems for the trial and appellate courts, and acquire a document management system that will electronically store and index court documents.
The Judicial Branch cleared a major hurdle on its eCourt program in March 2013 when it received legislative approval to issue bonds to fund a new case management system. Resolving the funding issue jump-started the eFiling process and made it possible to begin the proof-of-concept testing in Franklin County by the end of 2013.
This week’s eFiling milestone followed quickly on the heels of another major court technology rollout. In March 2013, the AOC launched CourtNet 2.0, which replaced the outdated CourtNet application and provides real-time, online access to Kentucky court case information. CourtNet 2.0 was initially offered to members of the Kentucky Bar Association and will be made available to other groups in the coming months. For more about CourtNet 2.0, see the KBA’s Bench & Bar, May 2013, pages 54-55.
Kentucky Judicial Branch
The AOC is the operations arm of the state court system. The AOC executes the Judicial Branch budget and supports the activities of nearly 3,300 court system employees and 403 elected justices, judges and circuit court clerks. The chief justice of Kentucky is the administrative head of the court system and is responsible for its operation.
Contact Information: Leigh Anne Hiatt, APR
Public Information Officer
Nonprofit says 72 percent of schools lack broadband speeds needed to fully use the Internet;
Elliston Elementary School in rural Montana is "on the wrong side of the new digital divide in this country," Lyndsey Layton writes for The Washington Post. Although they have laptops and whiteboards, the connection isn't fast enough for the teachers and students to utilize the many facets of technology such as videos, music, graphics and interactive programs. Rural schools aren't the only ones lacking adequate broadband.
According to Education Superhighway, a nonprofit dedicated to improving digital access in schools, 72 percent of public schools—in the country, suburbs and cities—do not have adequate broadband speeds to fully access the Internet.
"Wiring schools has brought the Internet to the principal's office or maybe a teacher's desk," said Evan Marwell, the chief executive of the group. "But we need to move this technology into the learning process, and that means 55 million students." President Obama proposed that all public schools get high-speed broadband and wireless Internet within the next five years, Layton writes. He said, "In a country where we expect free wi-fi with our coffee, why shouldn't we have it in our schools?"
Under Obama's plan, the Department of Education would train teachers in technology implementation for classroom instruction. It could be funded by increasing E-rate, the extra charge the government added to telephone bills in 1997. E-rate also gives schools and libraries 20 percent to 90 percent discounts on telecommunication costs. The program has already helped bring schools up to date; at the start, 14 percent of schools had Internet access, and now 99 percent have it, according to the Obama administration, Layton writes.
But schools still need faster broadband to support multiple new devices like tablets and smartphones and education applications."There are amazing learning opportunities, ability to have access to engaging digital content, ability to connect to experts and learners around the country through the smart use of technology," said Richard Culatta, director of the Education Department's Office of Educational Technology.
Broadband improvements will become even more important with the addition of the Common Core academic standards in reading and math for grades K-12—which 45 states and the District of Columbia will implement—that will require the administration of online exams. "The primary issue is bandwidth," Jacqueline King of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, said. Plans to improve the situation include increasing the E-rate budget and keeping a closer eye on what exactly schools spend the money on. "Some experts say that federal government should consider a one-time investment to bring adequate broadband capacity to all schools," Layton writes. That could cost $11 billion. (Read more)
Written by Melissa Landon Posted at 11/14/2013 02:19:00 PM
Posted: 26 Nov 2013 06:38 PM PST
Google has finally addressed the issues affecting the new YouTube comments system, controversially rolled out earlier this month.
Unfortunately, while small changes are being made to plaster over the cracks, the elephant in the room that is Google+ is going nowhere. In fact, Google refuses to even address the part its social networking integration has played in the mess.
Google Admits Problem
In the weeks since the new YouTube comments system was pushed out to an unsuspecting public, things haven’t gone well. But Google has remained silent on the issues, both big and small, preferring instead to make small changes behind the scenes.
Now, finally, Google has admitted there are problems inherent in the new Google+-powered system, though it won’t admit Google+ is at fault for any of them.
In a post on the YouTube Creator Blog, “the YouTube comments team” admits the new system “introduced new opportunities for abuse.” These include the allowing of ASCII art and links, and the promotion of popular comments.
These are, according to YouTube, all being fixed, while threaded conversations, formatted comments, the moderation of old comments, and bulk moderation for new comments are being rolled out now or in the future.
All of this proves beyond doubt that the Google+ integration wasn’t ever intended as a fix but was instead purely a way of forcing YouTube’s massive audience of users into signing up and using Google’s social networking effort.
What’s sad is that while Google has now admitted there’s a problem (or three) and promised to issue fixes for them, it didn’t even acknowledge the vitriolic response to the forced Google+ integration.
In other words don’t expect the company to even consider a reversal of the original decision, despite more than 215,000 people having (at the time of writing) signed an online petition to persuade the company to do just that.
The new Google+-powered YouTube comments system is here to stay, and nothing anyone does is going to change Google’s mind on that in the future.
Google has really messed up on this one. Change is inevitable, and often good, but this major change to a beloved website hasn’t delivered what was promised. It’s going to be painful watching Google trying to patch up a system that was clearly broken from day one.
For the next two weeks, Mazak Corp. will welcome more than 2,000 industry professionals at its North American Technology Center in Florence during its Discover 2013 event.
The event will offer technical seminars and industry-specific metalworking demonstrations and showcase a wide array of Mazak’s new machine models.
Mazak frequently hosts industry events, but company president Brian Papke said it has raised the bar this year to provide an enhanced experience for attendees.
“It’s no longer practical to just have an open house,” Papke said. “The time of people is so much more valuable that, in order to have an event like this, it has to be technology-driven. All companies are not at our level yet, but they are going to have to be to compete, so in a sense we are representing what manufacturing will be.”
Mazak has continued to expand and invest in manufacturing technology that has established it as an industry leader and an efficient machine tool builder that provides high-quality, reliable products.
The world-class facility in Florence produces more than 100 models of turning centers, multi-tasking machines and vertical machining centers.
A total of 37 new machines will be on display in the technology center during the event, including a cell of five developed specifically for a customer.
“All of these machines are new in some way,” Papke said. “Some are dramatically new models and others have been reconfigured with options and accessories that make them come up to a higher level of productivity.”
The production area will also display 11 new models designed for the current expansion of that facility, as well as seven other models in various stages of development.
Mazak is also working with its VIP partners to go beyond just showcasing its products.
“It adds another dimension of technology to some of the things we do,” Papke said. “We are in the final stages of putting this show together and the technology is incredible. Some is software and some is hardware, but the idea is to show customers a wide range of solutions, not just machines.”
Papke said there is a nationwide resurgence in the advanced manufacturing industry triggered by a number of factors. Mazak’s U.S. workforce alone has increased from 680 in late 2009 to 1,091, and 735 of those jobs are in Northern Kentucky.
“There are many companies that would like to reshore to the United States and there are some real advantages to manufacturing here,” Papke said. “The energy cost is reasonable compared to other countries and the long-term outlook for energy and the ability for us to reach energy independence is very bright. We also have moderate inflation, so it’s becoming more attractive to buy things here.”
Mazak utilizes a production-on-demand concept that allows it to make products in smaller quantities with short lead times, which provides a competitive advantage over foreign suppliers.
“We all would like to customize our products more and produce in lower quantities that match up to the needs of customers,” Papke said. “That is kind of a different idea from bringing things offshore where it’s not practical to buy things a few at a time because the freight costs and the labor costs are rising in those countries. This is the future of manufacturing.”
As a preview to Discover 2013, Mazak will host a Next Gener8n event for more than 200 Boone, Kenton and Grant county high school students and their parents Monday.
It is part of an ongoing effort to recruit a local workforce that will support the advanced manufacturing industry in Northern Kentucky in the future.
“We see it as our contribution to help employ people in the manufacturing industry,” Papke said.
The combination of growth within the industry and an aging workforce has left companies such as Mazak in desperate need of skilled workers. Mazak has partnered with manufacturers at the Northern Kentucky Industrial Park to determine why it is so difficult to fill jobs in the industry.
Mike Vogt, Mazak’s vice president of human resources, said the biggest revelation is that there are some long-held perceptions about the industry that are no longer accurate.
“We did some surveys and some focus groups with students and parents to try to learn why high school students were not considering careers in manufacturing,” Vogt said. “What we found is that manufacturing still has this old image of a dirty, dark, dangerous kind of work.”
Advanced manufacturing jobs today have evolved into highly-skilled, well-paid positions in facilities that are in clean, safe environments.
There are currently almost 700 unfilled advanced manufacturing jobs, with an average annual salary of $55,000, available in Northern Kentucky.
In three years, that number will jump to 2,500 and during the next decade more than 6,000 new advanced manufacturing jobs are expected to be available in the region.
By Mark Hansel
The Kentucky Enquirer