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KentuckyWired, a long-delayed project to bring high-speed internet to KY, has opened two new sections

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

KentuckyWired, a project to bring high-speed internet to all parts of Kentucky that has been beset by delays and cost overruns, has opened two new sections, primarily serving southern and eastern Kentucky.

Gov. Matt Bevin and Fifth District Congressman Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, made the announcement on Friday at the SOAR (Shaping Our Appalachian Region) Summit in Pikeville on Friday.

The completion of KentuckyWired’s 1B and 2 rings will provide the infrastructure for broadband connectivity in 39 counties, including:

(Ring 1B) Bath, Bourbon, Boyd, Breathitt, Carter, Clark, Clay, Elliott, Estill, Floyd, Jackson, Johnson, Knott, Laurel, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Madison, Magoffin, Martin, Menifee, Montgomery, Morgan, Nicholas, Owsley, Perry, Powell, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Rowan, Wolfe, and

(Ring 2) Bell, Harlan, Knox, Letcher, McCreary, Pike, Wayne and Whitley.

“Today, we are excited to announce the continued forward progress of the KentuckyWired project under our administration,” said Gov. Bevin. “With construction of the 1B and 2 rings complete, Eastern Kentucky is poised to benefit from the economic opportunities and growth that are possible with access to high-speed broadband. I am grateful to Congressman Rogers and the entire KentuckyWired team for their tireless work to bring broadband access not only to the 39 Eastern and Southeastern Kentucky counties in the 1B and 2 rings, but to the other 81 Kentucky counties as well.”

The first section (Ring 1A), which opened in late June, included Northern Kentucky, Louisville and Lexington, with a fiber optic link to Somerset, from which availability of high-speed internet expanded to the east.

Rogers, a co-founding principal of SOAR, called the announcement an historic milestone in Kentucky.

“Now, we turn our attention to the last mile, by helping local leaders and providers take the next steps to extend the network on out into every community to expand access to your homes and businesses. This new broadband interstate bridges the digital gap to high-tech jobs and economic development opportunities for every single county in Kentucky.”

Hal Rogers

KentuckyWired was launched in 2015 as a partnership between then-Governor Steve Beshear, a Democrat, and Rogers, and was enthusiastically embraced by politicians from both parties. The network is not designed to compete with private internet service providers. Instead, it is installing 3,000 miles of fiber optic cables reaching all 120 Kentucky counties.

Those cables would serve as the “highway” for private companies, who could connect to the network and offer high-speed internet in hard-to-reach areas, including the mountains of eastern Kentucky.

It was originally budgeted to cost $365 million with state government bonds providing $30 million and $23.5 million from the federal government, with the remaining $311 million through public-private partnership bonds and be completed in 2016. But the state had to add another $88 million to fund the project in 2018 and it won’t be completed now until the end of 2020.

One reason the project fell behind, according to KentuckyWired officials, was not getting pole attachment agreements with AT&T until Kentucky received designation as a Competitive Local Exchange Carrier, which took several months.

Another was when a construction crew digging a trench for the fiber optic cable hit a straight pipe that was not on maps provided to workers. Workers suddenly had raw sewage in the trench and that required Haz-mat suits and developing a process to clean it up.

KentuckyWired officials have said they had 228 “supervening events,” which caused delays and additional costs; as well as delays in getting permits, access to locally controlled rights of way and property easements.

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