Special to the Mountain Advocate
Reliable, high-speed Internet is coming to every county of the state, and supporters say the broadband project will be the key catalyst for profound and sweeping growth in job creation, health access and education.
To celebrate the construction of the statewide KentuckyWired, I-Way broadband network, Gov. Steve Beshear, Congressman Hal Rogers, state and local officials and hundreds of citizens gathered at Hazard Community and Technical College to learn more about KentuckyWired and how Kentucky’s future will benefit from broadband.
The broadband project will begin in eastern Kentucky and over the next three years will spread throughout the state. The benefits of broadband will break down geographic and financial barriers to education and economic development by providing access to affordable, high-quality Internet service to connect Kentuckians to the world.
“This is an exciting day,” said Gov. Beshear. “The potential for every Kentuckian to tap into the global economy, compete for higher paying jobs, collaborate with researchers across the globe, take classes online, or access increased medical care make KentuckyWired one of the most important infrastructure projects in our state’s history. While KentuckyWired is starting in the east, this network will cover approximately 3,400 miles across the state to bring badly needed Internet access closer to all our communities.”
The push for reliable, accessible and affordable high-speed broadband is one recommendation that emerged from the SOAR (Shaping Our Appalachian Region) initiative. That recommendation, along with the continuing loss of coal jobs, has been the reason for starting the project in the SOAR region. As a long-time technology leader in the region, The Center for Rural Development partnered with the Commonwealth to guide the eastern Kentucky phase of the project.
The leaders also called on communities and local providers to get ready for the project by preparing the “last mile,” or the Internet hookups from the broadband “highway” to individual homes and businesses.
“Thanks to the I-Way, we will essentially have endless capacity and endless connectivity,” said Congressman Rogers. “The only limit is our creativity. It’s up to us to put this resource to work for economic diversity, job creation and improved opportunities for the people of eastern Kentucky.”
KentuckyWired will build the state’s middle-mile fiber network and will provide wholesale access to local Internet service providers who can extend fiber to homes and businesses.
The project will be designed, built, operated and maintained through a 30-year public-private-partnership (P3) led by Macquarie Capital and industry partners. These partners have executed community fiber projects across the country, but note that Kentucky’s is the largest P3 fiber partnership in the country, and the only one which is fully open-access.
The total project is estimated to cost $324 million. The General Assembly allocated $30 million in the 2014 legislative session and $23.5 million in federal funds have been appropriated. Through the P3 approach the remaining funding will come from the consortium partners. The private partners have a target for hiring Kentuckians.
The newly created Kentucky Communications Network Authority and its governing board will manage the KentuckyWired open-access broadband network by overseeing the public-private partnership master agreement with consortium partners. Gov. Beshear created the authority by executive order and attached it to the Office of the Governor.