Gov. Beshear: Historic $203 Million Investment Brings High-Speed Internet to More Than 34,000 Kentucky Households, Businesses
FRANKFORT, KY (STL.News) As part of his Better Kentucky Plan, Gov. Andy Beshear today announced a historic investment of over $203 million to expand reliable and affordable high-speed internet to more than 34,000 Kentucky families and businesses.
The Governor said that the state’s Better Internet program is providing more than $89.1 million in 46 grant awards to 12 internet service providers and local governments across 35 Kentucky counties. Grant recipients have pledged funds to match the state’s contributions, bringing the total investment for this round of broadband expansion awards to over $203 million.
“I am incredibly pleased to announce what I believe is the single largest provision of funding for high-speed internet in our commonwealth’s history,” Gov. Beshear said. “High-speed, reliable internet service is not just the infrastructure of the future, it is the infrastructure of the present. It is just as important right now as roads and bridges. And today is a key part of our plan to build a better Kentucky, as high-speed internet will be critical to the success of our state’s economy and to future job creation.”
The awards were made using a competitive process managed by the Finance and Administration Cabinet, which issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) in August 2021. An evaluation team comprised of state government employees spent six months evaluating and scoring the nearly 100 proposals received in response to the RFP. The 12 successful applicants, representing 46 projects, were selected based on their demonstrated ability to meet certain conditions required to receive this funding.
“These grants will lower the cost of construction so that our most rural areas will have access to this necessity of high-speed internet,” State Budget Director John Hicks said. “These funds are dedicated to unserved areas in Kentucky. We’re also setting up Kentucky’s first Office of Broadband Development to help administer and create a master plan for the commonwealth to provide universal service to every Kentuckian.”
Awards announced today include:
Charter Communications received 18 grant awards totaling $49,980,694. The overall project investment is $118,808,035 including the required matching funds. This investment will expand access to high-speed internet to 18,553 currently unserved households and businesses located in Anderson, Bourbon, Boyle, Carroll, Henry, Jefferson, Jessamine, Lincoln, Madison, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer and Trimble counties.
Frankfort Plant Board received 11 grants totaling $8,045,741. T he overall project cost is $16,091,483 including the required matching funds. This investment will expand access to high-speed internet to 1,918 currently unserved households and businesses located in Franklin County.
Pennyrile Rural Electric Cooperative received seven grants totaling $13,827,320. The overall project cost is $27,906,340 including the required matching funds. This investment will expand access to high-speed internet to 5,598 currently unserved households and businesses located in Caldwell, Christian, Lyon, Todd and Trigg counties.
West Kentucky Rural Telephone Co-op Corporation received two grant awards totaling $3,365,704. The overall project cost is $6,731,408 including the required matching funds. This investment will expand access to high-speed internet to 843 currently unserved households and businesses located in Calloway and Marshall counties.
Cumberland Cellular received a grant for $1,012,879. The overall project cost is $2,025,758 including the required matching funds. This investment will expand access to high-speed internet to 290 currently unserved households and businesses located in Casey County.
South Central Telecom received a grant for $1,885,000. The overall project cost is $3,710,000 including the required matching funds. This investment will expand access to high-speed internet to 215 currently unserved households and businesses located in Edmonson and Warren counties.
Gibson Connect received a grant for $4,650,880. The overall project cost is $11,073,552 including the required matching funds. This investment will expand access to high-speed internet to 1,763 currently unserved households and businesses located in Fulton, Graves and Hickman counties.
Boone County Fiscal Court received a grant for $808,832. The overall project cost is $4,880,432 including the required matching funds. This investment will expand access to high-speed internet to 2,130 currently unserved households and businesses located in Boone County.
Duo County Telephone Cooperative received a grant for $3,368,826. The overall project cost is $6,737,652 including the required matching funds. This investment will expand access to high-speed internet to 550 currently unserved households and businesses located in Russell and Wayne counties.
Bardstown Connect received a grant for $1,090,982. The overall project cost is $3,305,064 including the required matching funds. This investment will expand access to high-speed internet to 1,061 currently unserved households and businesses located in Bullitt, Nelson, Spencer and Washington counties.
Crystal Broadband Networks received a grant for $255,835. The overall project cost is $515,835 including the required matching funds. This investment will expand access to high-speed internet to 1,006 currently unserved households and businesses located in Powell County.
Tri-County Electric received a grant for $900,000. The overall project cost is $1,800,000 including the required matching funds. This investment will expand access to high-speed internet to 97 currently unserved households and businesses located in Monroe County.
Frankfort Plant Board Chair John Cubine, who attended today’s announcement, cited the positive impact the funds will have on residents in Franklin County.
“At the Frankfort Plant Board, we have long discussed the critical need to provide citizens in our most outlying areas the vital link to internet access that will increase the quality of life, access to educational and employment opportunities and a connection to the world,” Cubine said. “This award helps to ensure FPB can provide that access no matter where you live in Franklin County. As a long-standing service provider in this community, we recognize the value of this opportunity as it will promote economic development throughout the county. And we want to thank the Franklin County Fiscal Court for our partnership to secure this funding.”
“This is a momentous occasion for Powell County and the communities of Frames Branch, Hardwicks Creek and Furnace Road,” Fareed Saghir, general manager, Crystal Broadband Networks said. “This project covers approximately 1,000 households and is set to transform the lives of thousands of people since it opens up a world of opportunities – from telemedicine, to remote learning and being able to thrive in the ever-changing digital economy. Today’s awards are a giant leap toward bridging the digital divide between urban and rural communities.”
“The grants are going to bring fiber broadband to over 850 people. I can’t tell you what an impact that has on people’s lives. It promotes health care, learning and just a better quality of life,” DUO Broadband CEO and Cumberland Cellular, LLC president Tom Preston said. “On behalf of our employees, our board of directors and everybody involved, we just want to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
The president and CEO of Pennyrile Electric Cooperative said the co-op is honored to be selected as a recipient of broadband funding.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with the state and build a fiber-to-the-home network for the communities we serve,” Pennyrile Electric Cooperative President and CEO Alan Gates said. “This funding from the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority will alleviate some of the significant financial burden associated with building a rural fiber-optic broadband network. The return on Kentucky’s investment will manifest through state residents receiving reliable, affordable and sustainable high-speed internet. Pennyrile’s served communities will be connected to vital services that include remote access to education and health care. Further, our members will be able to fully participate in the digital economy, helping these areas grow and thrive economically. We are grateful to the State of Kentucky for their support of the members in the Pennyrile Electric service territory.”
Charter Communications executives also expressed appreciation for the grant.
“We applaud this bold, bipartisan broadband expansion effort and look forward to the opportunity to extend our ongoing partnership with Kentucky leaders – including the Beshear administration, Kentucky Infrastructure Authority and state and local leaders – who recognize the importance of rural connectivity to Kentucky’s future,” Area Vice President of Charter Communications Jerry Avery said. “From investing to deploy internet access to reach unserved Kentuckians, to continually upgrading our network to provide fast and reliable broadband products at great value, to addressing affordability and adoption barriers, Charter has long been committed to increasing connectivity across the Commonwealth. We look forward to this opportunity to extend our network to reach an additional nearly 20,000 unserved families and small businesses across 13 counties, in seven of which broadband availability will be further expanded through Charter’s ongoing rural deployment initiative.”
Bardstown Mayor J. Richard Heaton said the funds will greatly benefit citizens in the Bardstown area.
“The City of Bardstown greatly appreciates the award for Kentucky Broadband Deployment funds,” Mayor Heaton said. “These funds and our matching funds will enhance some of our planned buildouts in areas of our county and market that are unserved or significantly underserved. This would not be possible without the help of the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority and Gov. Beshear’s administration.”
The President of the Gibson Electric said they are thrilled to receive Kentucky Broadband Deployment Program grant funds for their project.
“Our member-owners desperately need high-speed, fiber-based internet service and it will vastly improve the quality of life in our communities by providing opportunities for education, health care, jobs, entertainment and more,” President and CEO of Gibson Electric Membership Corporation and Gibson Connect Dan Rodamaker said. “We sincerely thank all those who have made the grant possible and particularly Gov. Beshear, our legislators and members of the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority. We also are grateful to our local leadership for their support of this important project and to our members for their patience as we have worked to provide internet service as economically as possible. We plan to begin work immediately and will soon communicate details of our buildout plan.”
Judge/Executive Gary Moore of Boone County said financial support for this project will be transformational for his constituents.
“Boone County is extremely pleased and grateful to KIA in receiving a notice of preliminary award for the county’s highspeed internet project in the amount of $808,832,” Judge Moore said. “These funds will be applied to continuing the buildout of fiber to every household in the county, resulting in universal access to a system capable of delivering 1.0 gigabyte of service. This transformative project continues to move forward and is on schedule for completion during the first half of 2023.”
CEO of West Kentucky & Tennessee Telecommunications Trevor Bonnstetter said, “WK&T has served parts of rural Calloway and Marshall counties since our founding members saw a need in rural areas that weren’t being met by the large telecom providers. This grant award means that more residents of Calloway and Marshall counties outside the current WK&T footprint are one step closer to having access to the fastest, most reliable internet technology available. This technology improves the daily lives of our members by opening up a whole new world of opportunities in entertainment, health care, education and so much more.”
“We are absolutely thrilled with the announcement regarding the approval of Tri-County Electric’s broadband grant application,” Tri-County Electric CEO Paul Thompson said. “I believe that having our application approved, in the amount of $900,000, is evidence that the state knows we are ready to provide fiber internet to Cumberland County. I, along with our District B (Burkesville) Director, Bret Carver, am very excited for these families.”
The awards announced today are the result of a bipartisan agreement signed into law by Gov. Beshear in April 2021 that allocated $300 million in federal American Rescue Plan dollars to bring internet access to unserved and underserved communities across the commonwealth.
House Bill 320 and House Bill 382, enacted by the 2021 General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Beshear, established Kentucky’s Broadband Deployment Fund to assist private sector entities and governmental agencies in the cost of constructing the “last mile” of high-speed internet access to unserved and underserved households and businesses across Kentucky.
The fund includes $300 million earmarked for the construction of high-speed internet infrastructure to connect areas currently without access.
Combined with at least 50% required matching federal investments, a minimum of $600 million will support the expansion of high-speed internet in Kentucky, creating more than 10,000 direct and indirect jobs. This historic investment, coupled with the internet speed test, access mapping and the KentuckyWired project, positions the commonwealth to move to the forefront of high-speed internet expansion nationwide.
The Governor’s Better Kentucky Plan aims to help the commonwealth lead in the post-COVID economy by applying federal dollars to build new schools, deliver clean drinking water, expand access to broadband, build stronger communities, improve roads and bridges and expand electric vehicle infrastructure.
The Governor also reminded Kentuckians that in December 2021, the FCC launched the Affordable Connectivity Program. This is a long-term, $14 billion program to ensure our people can afford the internet needed for work, school, health care and more. Qualifying households can receive a monthly benefit up to $30 per household. For more information or to apply, visit fcc.gov/acp.