Although it is making progress, the county’s broadband project is still at least two years from completion, said Judge-Executive Joe Pat Covington.

“The realistic time from start to finish would be 24 months-plus,” he said. “It’s going to take that long to get the fiber. My goal is to try to get fiber to the premise of as many homes in Scott County as we can. That’s going to take a while. It doesn’t just happen overnight.”

Scott County Fiscal Court has been interviewing approximately seven qualified respondents to the county’s requests for information (RFIs) that were sent out. Covington said the last interview was on Thursday.

“We have interviewed several internet service providers that have responded to our requests for information, and we have discussed what they shared of their interest and just general questions about how they would go about it,” he said. “We (had) one more of those interviews this week, and after that my hope is the court will put out an official bid.”

Covington added that it would be a 30-to-45-day time period allotted for bids.

“From that point, we’ll select a partner or multiple partners that can address the job of getting fiber out to homes in rural Scott County,” he said. “We’re close to being able to hammer out an agreement, we’re a few months from being able to do that.”

The recently passed stimulus package, also known as the American Rescue Act, also allotted some funds to the county that can be placed towards the this broadband expansion.

“We’re excited about the prospect, especially with the new federal dollars that have been earmarked for broadband,” he said. “It’s earmarked money that comes directly to the counties and broadband deployment has expressly been written in for it.”

Last week, KentuckyWired announced that it was nearing completion on more than 3,000 miles of high-speed fiberoptic cable through the state to assist in delivering service to unserved and underserved areas. This was developed through the Kentucky Communications Network Authority as the state’s $1.5 billion plan to provide internet access across all of Kentucky’s 120 counties.

David Flessas, CEO of Accelecom, the wholesale partner for KentuckyWired, described the project as a literal highway system, where KentuckyWired has provided the eight-line highway connecting all the counties in the state, but that now the off-ramps need to be developed.

While the service is currently available for Scott County businesses, government and education entities, Covington said the county must complete it’s broadband project before the option is available to those unserved and underserved areas.

“They’re (KentuckyWired) the middle mile, and what I’m trying to do is get the last mile,” he said. “I’m trying to get a company in that’ll put that last mile out.”

The county has been working closely with a consultant, CTC Technology and Energy, throughout the process, which Covington said has made the process go smoother.

“They have solicited responses for the RFI, they’ve organized and scheduled the meetings…they’re our technology advisors about what would be the best way to get this done,” he said.

House Bill 320 also was signed by the Speaker of House, Senate President and delivered to the Secretary of State on Tuesday, March 30, the end of the 2021 legislative session.

“The provision of broadband service to residential, commercial and industrial customers is critical in securing a sound economy and promoting the general welfare of the Commonwealth,” reads HB 320. “Distribution cooperatives are able to access and leverage federal funding to extend and enhance the availability of broadband service to Kentucky residents who are currently unserved or underserved.”

Covington said HB 320 sets up a matching grant program in the state that could give the county more options for funding the project. Once a partner is selected, the county and internet service provider would then apply for the grant and move forward from there.

Until then, the county is expected to send bids out to potential partners over the next few months.

 

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

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