Thousands of miles of fiberoptic cable extending through Kentucky is nearly complete and now available to Scott County businesses, government and education entities.

The KentuckyWired network, developed through the Kentucky Communications Network Authority, is the state’s $1.5 billion plan to provide internet access across all 120 counties. The goal was to string together more than 3,000 miles of high-speed, high-capacity fiber optic cable through the state to extend service capabilities to unserved and underserved areas. Construction has been ongoing since 2015.

David Flessas, CEO of Accelecom, which is the “exclusive wholesale partner” of the commonwealth, described the project as “broadband superhighway that connects all 120 counties in the state.”

“The nice part of the network is that it’s statewide, so it’s significantly different than what’s been out there before because all counties have access to the same consistent and state-of-the-art infrastructure across the state,” he said. “It’s going to provide those existing internet service providers (ISPs) with a cheaper and faster connection and provide broadband service where it didn’t exist initially.”

Accelecom is managing 144 of KentuckyWired’s 288 strands of fiber available for commercial use, while the remaining strands are occupied by state agencies. Approximately 140 state government offices have already migrated to the KentuckyWired network, including Gerard Butler State Park in Carrollton, several Lexington offices associated with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and a Kentucky State Police post in Dry Ridge.

“With the broadband infrastructure nearing completion, Accelecom is extremely excited and proud to begin connected Scott County-area businesses and communities to this state-of-the-art technology,” Flessas said. “We’re already receiving inquiries from  businesses and local internet service providers interested in migrating to the new network. The network opens doors of opportunities for every sector of Scott County business and commerce.”

To understand how the network operates, Flessas said it helps to think of it like a literal highway system.

“Thinking about it as an eight-lane freeway has been built and goes through all 120 counties in the state, but now we have to think of it as building the off-ramps,” he said. “We hope in Scott County and beyond that we’re able to facilitate existing ISPs to serve areas that haven’t been served. We believe there will be new ISPs coming into areas, and we hope to partner with them as well. We hope that we’re able to provide access that we couldn’t previously.”

Scott County has been trying for some time to extend broadband service to its more rural areas, something the fiscal court has had at the forefront of its mind for many years. Recently, the court has partnered with CTC Technology to examine options for the county’s broadband, sending out requests for information (RFIs) for potential private partners just last month.

“I can’t share names of the companies, but I am optimistic that the responses that we’ve gotten will lead to us being able to offer better connectivity to rural areas,” said Judge-Executive Joe Pat Covington.

Covington said the county is “actively meeting” with the seven RFI respondents to discuss possibilities for the county’s broadband project moving forward.

“We’re going through and interviewing with respondents and talking about partnerships,” he said. “There’s about seven respondents of internet service providers that are respected and well-known that are interested in our project.”

Flessas said Accelecom is in talks with the county in order to assist with the project.

“Not only does it (fiber optic cable) touch all 120 counties, but typically it goes through the county seat,” Flessas said. “We are in talks with county governments like Scott County to help them with the county-specific broadband requirements for county governments. Rural areas around the county who previously haven’t been provided service, this gives the judge-executive the opportunity to partner with and bring in ISPs with plans to serve those underserved areas. It allows counties like Scott to hit those areas where they don’t have coverage that they need to be successful.”

On Tuesday, March 16, House Bill 320 was passed by a unanimous vote from the Senate subcommittee and concurred by the House to be delivered to the governor that would assist with the broadband project as well.

“It (HB 320) sets up a matching grant program in the state of Kentucky at the state level that could provide us with another avenue for funding to get service to underserved and unserved areas,” Covington said. “We’d partner with an internet service provider to apply for the grant, and that would cover part of Scott County that’s not served. It’s a public-private partnership, and it’s using private funds and these public grant dollars at the state level as well.”

But Covington said how much the county would be applying for is still “part of the puzzle that we’re still going through as we do these interviews.”

Any revenue that comes from this is part of a sharing agreement with the state, which can hold some economic benefits as well, Flessas said.

“Our wholesale agreement with the state includes a revenue sharing agreement, so our success is the commonwealth’s success,” he said. “As we add partners, a significant chunk of that revenue goes back to the state. It’s good for the constituents and it’s good for the state too.”

The past year dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic has only exasperated the need for broadband service to everyone across the state, Flessas said.

“If it wasn’t clear before, it’s underscored and in bold letters now the importance of broadband access for everyone,” he said. “We’re thankful to be able to participate in that and looking forward to partnering with folks to bring that superhighway network closer to them.”

Flessas said Accelecom is still in the process of “turning on” their equipment and will be prepared to provide service during the second quarter of the year.

 

Kyle Woosley can be reached at kwoosley@news-graphic.com.

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