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February 28, 2020

The Center’s Connectivity Chronicles: Ridgenet

The Center for Rural Development supports the implementation of the KentuckyWired infrastructure in Southern and Eastern Kentucky, and is working to close the digital divide. In doing so, this initiative encourages and fosters an improved way of life throughout the region and the state.

Now that the construction phase of the KentuckyWired project is complete in Eastern Kentucky, citizens are eager to see broadband improvements. However, it is important to understand that the completion of the middle-mile is only the beginning of the process.

The KentuckyWired initiative serves as the middle-mile access point to high-speed internet. From there it is up to each community, Fiber Board, or local Internet Service Provider (ISP) to develop a last-mile plan to extend internet access to every business and resident within their communities. The development of the last-mile will provide consumers with additional internet options. The result is competition that breeds efficiency by driving bandwidth up and costs down.

Some local ISPs have already begun focusing on the needs of rural communities. One example is Ridgenet, a wireless communication and technology company based out of Science Hill. Eric Wilson inadvertently started the company when he set out to solve slow internet speeds at his home in Science Hill. He bought some equipment and a 20-foot service tower, and was able to drastically improve his own internet access. He then turned his attention to creating Ridgenet and helping others. After establishing Ridgenet, Eric’s younger brother, Alex Wilson, joined the company to help grow it to where it is today. Although all businesses have an ultimate goal to generate money, the heart of Ridgenet is to serve the community.

“I’d rather make an honest dollar than a lot of money,” said Alex Wilson, Ridgenet CFO & Communications Director; noting that customer service is the biggest thing that sets Ridgenet apart.

As the need for reliable broadband has increased, Kentucky has historically ranked among one of the worst states for connectivity. Ridgenet set out to change that. Today, Ridgenet provides internet and phone services to thousands of residential, commercial and industrial clients across South Central Kentucky.

“There were tons of communities that didn’t have access to internet. We really focus on rural communities, because that’s where the need is,” said Wilson.

Starting at its data center in Science Hill, Ridgenet spreads its service to nearly two dozen towers scattered across multiple counties. Ridgenet owns and operates their own towers and even builds them in-house. The company also provides two-way radio systems to the Pulaski County Sherriff’s Office and several 911 centers and other public safety organizations across the state. Additionally, Ridgenet works with local and state governments to help bridge the gap in broadband and other wireless communication needs.

“With the help of KentuckyWired, we will have better access to reliable, high-speed internet which will allow us to expand our reach and offer better speeds to our customers,” Wilson added.

The Center for Rural Development offers multiple resources to help ISPs such as Ridgenet to improve the last-mile, or bring the last-mile to communities for the first time. More information about The Center’s Last-Mile Guide, CenterLinks Access Nodes, and Technology Assistance Program can be found at https://centertech.com/technology/kentuckywired/ or by calling The Center’s Broadband Technology Liaison, Scott Surber, at 606-677-6000.

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