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According to the United States Department of Commerce, broadband access and adoption is lagging in rural America, and large swaths of central and eastern Kentucky have little to no internet access.

A recent study found that about 40% of rural households use broadband internet service, while roughly half of urban households are online. About 28% of all Americans do not use the Internet at all.

The government’s broadband map charts Internet accessibility. It shows no coverage–wired or wireless–in portions of eastern and southern Kentucky.

Democratic consultant Paul Begala has penned an op-ed for The Daily Beast arguing that the small government rhetoric of Kentucky Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, and Representative Hal Rogers is hypocritical, given Kentucky’s dependence on federal money.

Take Kentucky, please. Kentucky has given us Makers Mark bourbon, Churchill Downs, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Kentucky has also given us Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, tea party favorite Sen. Rand Paul and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers. While Rogers was once dubbed the “Prince of Pork” and McConnell has hauled so much pork he’s at risk for trichinosis, they are now converts to Sen. Paul’s anti-government gospel.  McConnell says President Obama’s new budget is “unserious” and “irresponsible” because it merely cuts projected deficits by $1.1 trillion.  “The people who voted for a new direction in November have a five-word response,” McConnell said, “We don’t have the money.”

Fair enough.  So here’s my two-word response: Defund Kentucky. Cut it off the federal dole. Kentucky is a welfare state to begin with. The conservative Tax Foundation says the Bluegrass State received $1.51 back from Washington for every dollar it paid in federal taxes in 2005 (the most recent data I could find on the Tax Foundation’s website.)  We need to listen to the people of Kentucky. They don’t want any more federal spending in their state—and they certainly must be appalled by the notion that they’re a bunch of welfare queens, living off the taxes paid by blue states like California(which only gets 81 cents back on the dollar), Connecticut (69 cents), Illinois (75 cents) and New York (79 cents).

The issue was briefly raised during Paul’s race for the U.S. Senate. In recent years, we’ve seen many rural writers and advocates take increasingly bold stands against federal program cuts. From Post Office closures to poorly-expanded internet access, rural areas often see the effects of altered spending first. Of course, Louisville benefits from federal spending as well. Many previously-proud earmark earners say now is the time to end the process and close the deficit. Others, however, argue that in times of recession, a balanced budget should not be a high priority. When asked about the cuts in various federal budget proposals in the House, Third District Congressman John Yarmuth told WFPL:

“A lot of us, for whom some of these cuts the Republicans have proposed and even cuts like the ones the Obama administration has proposed would be much more acceptable if we didn’t have 10% unemployment and so many people suffering.”

What are your thoughts on how to square rural difficulties with small-government politics?

A plan relying on equine abattoirs as a means to reduce the expanding wild horse population has been rejected by the bureau for land management.

From the LA Times:

Instead, the agency plans to give mares birth control in hopes of diminishing the need for controversial horse roundups, Bob Abbey said at the Summit of the Horse conference in Las Vegas. The BLM, he said, also will continue promoting adoption and seeking locations to place captured horses other than its holding pens.

As previously reported, Kentucky has it’s own problems with loose horses.

The Institute for Rural Journalism (which runs the oft-linked Rural Blog) is seeking year-end financial donations. Institute director and notable journalist Al Cross says this:

Perhaps ironically, the financial squeeze on metropolitan newspapers and other changes in the news media have made all the more important the Institute’s vision of helping rural America through journalism, because most major papers and broadcast outlets have abandoned coverage of rural areas. That has left a vacuum that rural news media must fill, covering issues and setting the public agenda in their communities.

Next year, detail data from the 2010 will filter out to the states. This will be used to redrawn city, state and federal legislative districts. While a dramatic change is unlikely in Kentucky, it could tip the scales toward the cities, Louisville and Lexington. If the cities represent more of the state’s population, they’ll get more representation, and it’s long been said that Americans are becoming more urban, and cities could gain more power on the state and federal level.

But as Governing reports, that could come at the cost of rural clout.

The Kentucky State Police released the monthly report on meth lab busts for October this week.

KSP reports that there were 111 meth labs found during the month of October, exceeding all previous monthly totals, bringing the 2010 statewide total to 919.

The last record was set in 2009, when 741 labs were discovered during the course of a year. The state is on track to exceed 1,000 meth labs this year.

The KSP attributes the increase to the availability of meth ingredients. Meth has also become increasingly easy to manufacture. But as we’ve reported on WFPL, it’s impossible to determine how much of the increase in busts should be attributed to an actual increase in manufacturing and how much should be attributed to better law enforcement practices. Most of the law enforcement officers and prosecutors we’ve talked to say it’s certainly a combination of both, but disagree on the proportion.

(h/t Ville Voice)

The millions of federal stimulus dollars going toward expanding broadband may not be properly protected. That’s according to a report from the Department of Commerce’s Inspector General and a recent Politico story:

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the agency that has been managing the program, isn’t doing enough to monitor how grantees are spending the stimulus money, the report finds. The Inspector General also pointed out flaws with the program’s internal processes. For example, NTIA staff needs more training in using the technology systems developed by outside contractor Booz Allen Hamilton to monitor the program’s winners.

“This transfer of IT knowledge is of particular concern because NTIA is a relatively small-staffed agency charged with the execution of a major program, and it has relied heavily on the expertise and capabilities of (Booze Allen Hamilton) in virtually every aspect” of the program, the report said.

NTIA is running the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, which distributed $4 billion of the roughly $7 billion in stimulus dollars put aside for broadband expansion efforts. NTIA awarded Booze Allen Hamilton $98 million to help with administration work.

A major hurdle for the agency’s oversight is the fact that Congress did not allocate sufficient funds to manage the program after Dec. 3. Still, the report argues there are alternative ways NTIA can ensure the program is effective. Besides increasing oversight of its contract with Booz Allen Hamilton, other recommendations include completing tasks more quickly and clearly outlining responsibilities for other agencies that support NTIA’s grants program.

We’ve discussed the potential benefits of expanded broadband access and the need for oversight in previous posts.

Here’s an interesting map:

That comes from the Daily Yonder (link currently unavailable) courtesy of the Rural Blog, which says:

The 125 most rural districts analyzed by the Yonder had at least 33 percent of their population living in rural areas. The rural average of all 435 House districts is 21 percent. “There are 39 rural districts that switched from Democratic representation to Republican,” Bishop and Ardery write. “These account for 65 percent of the 60 seats Republicans captured from Democrats on Tuesday.” No Republican district on the most rural list switched to Democrat.

Stories about meth often touch on the fact that the drug is difficult to legislate against. Laws and regulations can be circumvented and the technology for manufacturing the drug continues to advance.

This is all chronicled in a Knoxville News Sentinel report. In the excerpt below, it’s clear that Knoxville faces the same problem many as cities (Louisville included)–manufacturers/users from rural counties flock to urban areas where drug stores are more concentrated.

Authorities in Knox County said they deal more with addicts on shopping expeditions than with active labs.

“Our biggest problem right now is people from other counties beating down the pharmacy doors,” Knox County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Chris Bryant said. “We have a pharmacy on every block in Knoxville, and they’ll go to each one. They use homeless people a lot. They’ll pull up outside a rescue mission and say, ‘Who wants to make some money?’ “

Police keep getting better at finding and busting labs. Investigators track sales of pseudoephedrine, the common element in meth-making, and can make arrests simply for possession of enough material to start a lab.

The cooks get better, too. They tweak recipes, keep moving and muster small armies of shoppers to stay supplied.

“It’s a cat-and-mouse game,” said Tommy Farmer, director of the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force. “They know we’re on them, so what they did is find other ways to circumvent the law. These are the results.”

The newest recipe – nicknamed “one-pot” or “shake-and-bake” – travels anywhere and fits in a 20-ounce bottle. A one-pot lab and a handful of pseudoephedrine can make enough meth for the next high in less than an hour.

We’ve written about rural broadband in America, but other countries also have problems with limited and slow access outside of cities. The Rural Blog reports on a recent test/stunt performed in the UK:

To demonstrate of the speed of rural broadband in the United Kingdom, pigeons carrying tiny computer flash drives were released from a Yorkshire farm at the same time that a five-minute video upload was begun from the farm, reports the BBC. A little more than hour later, the pigeons had reached their destination in Skegness, about 75 miles away, while only 24 percent of the 300-megabyte file had uploaded.

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