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Could 5G Be the Answer to Rural Connectivity in Kentucky?

While fiber and broadband are often discussed as the best ways to get Internet to underconnected communities, Kentucky CIO Charles Grindle considers skipping those options altogether.

Kentucky CIO Charles Grindle
Kentucky CIO Charles Grindle
eRepublic/David Kidd
When public-sector IT leaders talk about closing the digital divide, broadband and fiber are the most common solutions states and cities consider to get quality Internet to far-flung, underserved areas. However, those represent costly upgrades to infrastructure. 

At the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) midyear conference in April, Kentucky CIO Charles Grindle discussed the possibility that 5G could also be the solution to his state’s rural connectivity issues. The state is currently at about 80 percent broadband penetration, but could it be a better use of resources for the remaining 20 percent if they skip broadband altogether? 

With its promise of higher speeds and lower latency, 5G currently seems to be taking hold primarily in cities, where it can support emerging technologies like the Internet of Things and autonomous vehicles. But in Kentucky, Grindle suggests, maybe those rural regions are better off bypassing the current LTE infrastructure and broadband investment and going straight to the next generation of Internet connection.


Lauren Kinkade is the managing editor for Government Technology magazine. She has a degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and more than 15 years’ experience in book and magazine publishing.