In recent months many Kentuckians have struggled to gain access to telehealth, distance learning, and other online services. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the digital divide has never been more evident. It is more apparent than ever that reliable, affordable internet access is an essential service for individuals and businesses alike, just like electricity, water and sewer.
Even before COVID-19, Kentucky was at or near the bottom of national and international rankings for broadband speed and capacity. This has been a disadvantage for attracting business, expanding jobs and educational attainment, and is especially true in Southern and Eastern Kentucky, where the declining coal industry has negatively impacted communities. However, KentuckyWired provides hope for the future.
KentuckyWired is a statewide fiber optic network which will deliver affordable, high-capacity, high-speed broadband access to communities throughout Kentucky. While the construction phase of the KentuckyWired project is complete in Eastern Kentucky, 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.
The Center for Rural Development is taking action to support the implementation of last-mile fiber services in Kentucky. The Center sponsored fiber education for last-mile service providers and industry professionals as they prepare for their use of the wholesale services provided by KentuckyWired. Through a partnership with KCTCS, a Certified Fiber Optic Technician (CFOT) class was offered at Somerset Community College’s Lineman Training Center.
The training explored the history and future of fiber optics and fiber optics capabilities, and basic testing and troubleshooting. The course introduced students to industry standards governing FTTD (Fiber to the Desk), FTTH (Fiber to the Home), and distribution cabling. Students learned how to identify fiber types and recognize various connectors used in fiber installation. They also learned how to install, terminate, splice, and properly test installed fiber cable to existing standards. The program combined theory and 85% hands-on activities to prepare the students to take the CFOT test that is sanctioned by the Fiber Optics Association.
The Center provided this training to 8 individuals split into two groups in order to maintain social distancing. All of those who attended passed the exams and received their Fiber Optics Association (FOA) certificates. Jamie Caines with Eastern Telephone & Technology was among the group. “I gained a great deal knowledge from the class as in seeing how other folks do things in this line of work,” said Caines. “This training is head and shoulders above any that I’ve had. This class had hands on work that could be related to real world experiences. I LOVED it,” he added.
The mission of The Center is to positively impact the communities within 45 counties of Southern and Eastern Kentucky. Through supporting the implementation of KentuckyWired infrastructure, The Center is working to close the digital divide. Those interested in learning more about broadband training opportunities are encouraged to contact The Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 606-677-6000 or visit www.centertech.com.