As 2020 unfolds it is becoming more apparent than ever that reliable, affordable internet access is an essential service for individuals and businesses alike. Dependable high-speed, high-capacity internet has become a necessity much like electricity, water and sewer. For many years Kentucky has been 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.
In early February the Powell County Fiscal Court and Judge Executive, James Anderson, began to address the issue within their community when they formed the Powell County Broadband Commission. The purpose of the commission is to advocate for the development of broadband infrastructure and services and to ensure that the benefits of the technology are realized in all areas of Powell County.
The initiative gained momentum when a Broadband Business Stakeholder meeting took place in Slade, Kentucky in late February. Excitement filled the room as residents and business owners from the area gathered at the Slade Welcome Center to discuss a proposed fiber internet project to provide service along a two-mile stretch of KY 11 (Natural Bridge Road) in Slade.
During the meeting, Richard Taylor, Executive Vice President at The Center for Rural Development, explained that the Slade project is associated with KentuckyWired. “I’m proud of this community for pulling together to tackle this issue. This is the first non-state last-mile project that will be initiated because of KentuckyWired. The cable that has been run to the state park provides Eastern Telephone & Technologies with plant facilities to lash the additional fiber cable for this project. Small projects such as this will serve as the testbed for further fiber broadband expansions not only in this area, but also projects such as this all across Southern and Eastern Kentucky.”
“It’s exciting and I think that it’s a really great opportunity to expand a lot of the avenues here to promote the great businesses and the things that we have going on here,” said Powell County Broadband Commission member, Beth Atkinson.
Judge Executive Anderson and Industrial Board Director, Craig Dawson, later secured $20,000 in funding from The Center for Rural Development for the Slade Broadband Expansion project. With the funding, they were able to eliminate the need for businesses and residents to pay an up-front cost in order to sign up with the broadband service being offered by Eastern Telephone & Technologies.
“We look forward to seeing this project move forward and we hope it serves as a model as we work towards expanding broadband coverage across the county” said the Powell County Broadband Commission in an April 12th Facebook post.
In late June, the commission announced that the Slade Internet Expansion project was currently under construction. “On-boarding is anticipated to come in two phases. The first phase will light up the area between the Slade Welcome Center and Shell/Go Time/Subway area. The second phase will light up the area between the Slade Welcome Center and the Natural Bridge State Park area. We anticipate this project to be completed in the next few months as long we don’t run in to any construction delays” their Facebook announcement read.
By July 16th fiber internet was live at the Slade Welcome Center. “According to a quick Google speed test, we are currently running 69.3 mbps download, 59.8 mbps upload, and the latency is 37 ms. It says ‘Your Internet connection is very fast.’” said Miranda Fallen, Executive Director of Powell County Tourism.
“We used to sit around 8-10 mbps for both of those numbers and the test always said ‘You have very poor connection.’” she added.
The improved internet connectivity in Slade provides businesses with expanded capabilities to process credit card payments, fulfill online orders, sync web and in-store inventories, improve remote camera monitoring, utilize off-site backups, and enhance their customers experiences.
The Center for Rural Development is taking action to support the implementation of last-mile fiber services in Kentucky and is working to offer internet service providers (ISPs) with access points to connect to the KentuckyWired middle-mile network and extend reliable high-speed, high-capacity internet throughout Southern and Eastern Kentucky.
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 just as it has done in Slade. The result is competition that breeds efficiency by driving bandwidth up and costs down.
Additionally, The Center has recently launched a Technology Assistance Program (TAP) to help communities begin asset mapping, perform feasibility studies, and conduct pre-engineering analyses of community fiber projects or other activities that will extend the reach of the KentuckyWired fiber infrastructure. The initiative is funded by a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission and is administered by The Center for Rural Development.
The Center is dedicated to helping communities explore ways to become “fiber ready”, in order to make reliable high-speed, high-capacity internet available to as many people as possible. The Center encourages communities and ISPs to work together and utilize TAP resources to plan last-mile services that originate at CenterLinks Access Nodes.
The Center also has information about local, state, and federal funds that support the initiative to bring broadband access to rural areas and will be hosting regional training sessions to help community leaders implement the last-mile.
More information about The Center’s technology initiatives can be found at https://centertech.com/technology/kentuckywired/. Institutions seeking further information about Managed Security Services, communities interested in broadband training opportunities, and ISPs looking to learn more about accessing the KentuckyWired middle-mile through CenterLinks Access Nodes, are encouraged to contact Scott Surber, Broadband Technology Liaison, at email@example.com or 606-677-6000.