As Scott County Schools prepare to open the year with virtual online instruction, former educator and county judge-executive Joe Pat Covington is pushing to improve broadband coverage within the county.

The Scott County Fiscal Court has contracted with GEO Partners, LLC from Minnesota to conduct a broadband test throughout the county. The data from the test will help determine dead or slow spots so a plan can be developed to improve overall coverage, Covington said.

“This speed test will give us real data that we can use to develop an analysis to design a plan for better coverage,” Covington said. “Broadband coverage is important, and COVID-19 has magnified the issue. For all students who are required to do distance learning, but especially those students who may be in areas where broadband coverage isn’t strong or at all, they are at a distinct disadvantage.

“But also telehealth, people working from home. I just believe improving our broadband coverage is crucial.”

Because Scott County is the first Kentucky county to sign with GEO Partners, the company waived its $5,000 fee for the test.

The initial goal was 1,200 to 2,000 people to conduct the test, but the numbers have already exceeded that amount, Covington said. “Still, the more tests we have, the better the data,” he said.

The school system has provided a big boost when community education coordinator Renee Holmes sent emails to parents and teachers alerting them to the test, Covington said.

The test will be conducted Aug. 25 at 5 p.m.

Once GEO Partners has the data, they will develop a cost estimate on what it would take to provide broadband coverage throughout the county.

“Their data reflects 10 to 15 percent of the real cost,” Covington said.

Once the data is available, Scott County will use that information to apply for federal grants.

“This will be the most reliable and extensive data we have ever had,” Covington said. “The FCC data takes in an entire Census block that’s just not reality. The data provided by GEO Partners will identify the trouble spots in Scott County. Then we hope we can use our CARES Act funds to expand our infrastructure and build a public-private partnership to improve broadband coverage.”

It is expected some $600 million will be available through federal grants sometime next year to improve broadband in rural locations. Scott County hopes to use this data to apply for one of those grants, as well, Covington said.

According to Covington’s Facebook page, the county needs more tests from the following locations: Long Lick Pike, Gaines, Josephine, Porter, Hinton, Sadieville, Deer Lake,  Davis Burgess Smith, Luke Boyers Chapel, Elk Lick  Church, U.S. 227, Stamping Ground, Sharp, Cedar, Switzer, Woodlake, Sebree, Duvall Station, Green Lane, Craig Lane, Galloway, Ironworks, Fishers Mill, Pea Ridge, Cane Run, Burton, Anderson, Gunnell, Middy Ford, Bailey, Barkley, Finnell, Leesburg, Thistleway, Crumbaugh, Johnson Mill, Newtown Pike, Stone and Carrick.

 

Mike Scogin can be reached at mscogin@news-graphic.com.

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