Kentucky courts one step closer to online public access;
By Carrie Blackmore SmithThe Kentucky EnquirerLawrence County Circuit Clerk Jodi ParsleyA statewide project to digitize court records – and eventually make them more accessible to the public – advanced this week with the launch of electronic filing in Kenton County Circuit Court.Boone, Campbell, Kenton, Gallatin and Franklin counties now provide the 24-7 service for civil cases.But the goal is to get all 120 Kentucky counties and all types of cases operating on a single system by the end of 2015, said Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Michelle Keller, chair of the courts’ Technology Governance Committee and leader of this effort, already 10 years in the making.Here in Northern Kentucky, the goal is to give the public the ability to look up cases online – for a nominal subscription fee – by the end of the year or early next year, Keller said.“Many people have worked very hard to take this first step in making our system more efficient, cost-effective and better able to meet the needs of our citizens,” she said.Funding had been the system’s biggest hurdle, Keller said, until the Kentucky Legislature gave the state’s courts permission in 2013 to borrow $28.1 million – enough to get everyone up and running.A closer look at the current system strengthened the committee’s argument for an upgrade, revealing an aging infrastructure, rife with security risks, Keller said.“It’s a win-win for everyone,” said Boone Circuit Clerk Dianne Murray, whose court has had a couple hundred cases filed electronically since May.Murray has been pleased with the system after working out a bug that led to lengthy waits on credit card transactions.E-filing simplifies the work for court clerks, lawyers and judges.Deputy clerk Sherry Goodridge handled Kenton County’s first e-filing, a foreclosure, Wednesday.“It was very easy to do,” said Good ridge, estimating it saved her 30 minutes compared to the in-person system – the only way complaints were filed before.Instead of writing everything out by hand and then entering it into the state’s computer database, she was able to print the file and it was automatically entered into the state system.In Kenton County the e-filing system also allows clerks to send court summons directly to the sheriff’s office, which serves those summons, instead of sitting in a mailbox awaiting a deputy to pick them up each day.E-filing should also save law firms and legal aid agencies time and money, Keller said, because they won’t have to constantly send runners to and from the court houses to file and pick up documents.Keller hopes all of these efficiencies will reduce the cost of doing business in the courts.She does not, however, believe it will cost court employees their jobs because most clerk’s offices are already understaffed.“Retirements and natural attrition should take care of it,” said Keller.She’s eager for the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court to be included in the effort, too, so she can carry around a DVD or thumb drive of the cases she reviews, instead of lugging around boxes and boxes of records.Keller sees this as just another efficiency in the Kentucky court system, which has already done away with bail bondsmen, records court proceedings with audio and video (instead of relying on court reporters) and has implemented video arraignments.“By studying other state’s (computerized) systems, we’ve learned from their mistakes and successes,” Keller said, “and think we’ll have one of the best systems in the country.”
Lawrence County Circuit Clerk Jodi Parsley did not return phone calls for information.
After receiving nearly 700,000 comments about its net neutrality rules, the Federal Communications Commission has extended the comment period to midnight Friday. The original deadline had been Tuesday, but after receiving so many comments, including a flurry that crashed the website, the deadline was extended, and it appears "likely that net neutrality will become the most-commented-on issue in FCC history," Gautham Nagesh reports for The Wall Street Journal.
Among those keeping close watch on the rules are rural Americans. Net neutrality "could have unintended consequences here in the hinterlands, where customers are relatively few and far between and providing broadband services at all is still an issue in some localities," the McCook Daily Gazette warns. Some rural areas already lack high-speed Internet, or any service at all, but net-neutrality could slow things down even more, with companies like Netflix, which uses as much as 34 percent of Internet traffic at peak times, being blamed for slowing down networks.
"Net neutrality rules have been sold for a decade as a way to keep the Internet 'open and free' by keeping Internet service providers (ISPs), such as phone and cable companies, from blocking or degrading Web sites," former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell writes for The Washington Post. "Its advocates have argued that ISPs have an economic incentive to act anti-competitively toward consumers and competitors. In a common hypothetical they cite, ISPs would slow — or buffer — traffic for Netflix unless it unfairly pays for more access points, or “off ramps,” and better quality of service."
"In truth, however, market failures like these have never happened, and nothing is broken that needs fixing," McDowell writes. "If consumers were being harmed by ISPs, ample antitrust, competition and consumer protection laws already exist to fix the problem. And major broadband providers have pledged, in their terms of service, to keep the Net open and freedom-enhancing. Why? Because it is good business to do so."
Columbia law professor Tim Wu testified before Congress that the goal of net-neutrality is to give the FCC oversight of the Internet, McDowell writes.
"State manipulation of the Net would shape 'not merely economic policy, not merely competition policy, but also media policy, social policy' and 'oversight of the political process,' according to Wu’s testimony. Current regulations simply do not 'capture' the Net the way more government powers would through powerful new rules, he argued."
"Wu’s vision of more government 'capture' strongly resembles old broadcast regulations spurred by a 'scarcity' of outlets in the mid-20th century — the legal rationale for government regulation of speech over the airwaves, which would never be tolerated by, say, newspapers," McDowell writes. "Even in today’s competitive and digitized media markets, broadcasters must adhere to strict rules dictating speech, or risk losing their licenses. This Supreme Court-blessed government speech control operates under aliases such as 'regionalism' and 'localism' as invoked by Wu.
These rules compel broadcasters to tailor their content to serve properly (in the eyes of regulators) their 'communities of license' That could include mandates ranging from sufficient local news, sports and weather, to a minimum amount of programming for children." (Read more)
Written by Tim Mandell Posted at 7/17/2014 02:45:00 PM
Friday, July 11, 2014;
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Governor Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers announced today that two requests for proposals (RFP) are being issued this month on a public-private partnership (P3) project to build critically-needed high-speed broadband Internet access to the farthest reaches of the Commonwealth.Increasing broadband access in eastern Kentucky is a primary focus of the project.
An RFP was released today by the Commonwealth of Kentucky in conjunction with the Center for Rural Development seeking private partners to build, operate and maintain a statewide open-access, high-speed broadband network. A complementary RFP seeking equity partners for the project will be released next week. The Commonwealth may establish one contract using either the equity or concessionaire model.
The Next Generation Kentucky Information Highway will help Kentucky make tremendous strides toward being a leader both in terms of speed and presence of high-speed Internet connectivity, Gov. Beshear said.“Infrastructure such as roads, sewers, water lines and classrooms are critical to our quality of life and economic vitality,” Gov. Beshear said. “Today, we also have to invest in another kind of infrastructure – the kind that will break down geographic and financial barriers to education and economic development.”
“This ‘Super I-Way’ will pave a high-tech future for eastern Kentucky,” said Rep. Rogers. “It will launch our rural region into the global playing field, creating new job opportunities, innovative access to healthcare, enhanced educational opportunities, and much more. We are eager to move forward with this project to help grow eastern Kentucky’s economy.”
The initial phase of the project is expected to take two years to build and will include more than 3,000 miles of fiber infrastructure, often referred to as the “middle mile.”
Currently, Kentucky ranks 46th in high-speed broadband Internet availability. Nearly a quarter of the Commonwealth’s population – 23 percent – has no access to broadband.
“Today, only about half of Kentucky’s households use broadband Internet service, and nearly one-quarter can’t access broadband at all,” Gov. Beshear said. “We’re going to fix that with an ambitious plan to extend broadband access, initially focusing on eastern Kentucky.”
The push for reliable, accessible high-speed broadband is one recommendation that emerged from “SOAR,” the “Shaping Our Appalachian Region” initiative that seeks to move Kentucky’s Appalachian region forward.
“Much like previous generations’ efforts to build sewer and water systems, the electric grid and paved highways, this broadband initiative will solidify Kentucky’s place in the new global economy,” Rep. Rogers said. “Our investment in it will pay dividends in the years ahead.”
The RFP is available online at http://finance.ky.gov/services/eprocurement/pages/default.aspx.
Click on the Vendor Self Service link and choose public access.For more information about SOAR, visit http://governor.ky.gov/soar/ and follow SOAR activities on Facebook @ShapingOurAppalachianRegion and on Twitter @SOAR_EKY. To contact the SOAR office, call 606-444-5127 or 606-437-5127.
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