Officials seek ideas for broadband coverage

DARYL K. TABOR / Herald Ledger

A tree-trimming crew with LEDCOR, a contractor for KentuckyWired, continued work last week along U.S. 641 in Lyon County to clear foliage away from new high-capacity fiber optic cable installed as part of the state-run broadband network.

County leaders last week quashed a proposal that would have subsidized a private company to run fiber optic cable down every road in the county in order to offer high-speed internet to homes and businesses.

Judge-Executive Wade White announced at Thursday's meeting of Lyon Fiscal Court that the county will not pursue an overall $20 million broadband project with WK&T Telecommunications Cooperative to offer countywide broadband. The proposal would have cost county taxpayers $5 million over the next 30 years to subsidize the overall project that would have also relied on a $10 million federal USDA grant and $5 million of WK&T's own investment. It would have called for a 45% increase of county property tax rates.

"We put it out there for people to comment," said White, speaking of the fiscal court. "I feel like we've all heard pretty much the same. It's too expensive for us to move ahead at this point.

"I guess we'll keep searching for new ideas."

Magistrate Bobby Cummins added that most people he spoke with said they would rather have better roads than high-speed internet.

Meantime, a tree-trimming crew with LEDCOR, a contractor for KentuckyWired, continues work along U.S. 641 in Lyon County to clear foliage away from new high-capacity fiber optic cable installed as part of the broadband network. Lines are being strong utility poles across all of western Kentucky as part of the state-run project that includes more than 3,000 miles of cable to create network hubs in all 120 counties.

But KentuckyWired itself is not a solution for Lyon County's internet woes. Most rural homes and businesses will remain without access to broadband even when LEDCOR's work in the area is completed. That's because KentuckyWired simply runs fiber trunk lines to each county to create a hub, allowing private companies to connect to network by leasing its fiber.

Lyon County still remains without interest from a service provider to offer high-speed internet across the entire county.

KentuckyWired has been plagued with cost overruns and political controversy since it was started in 2013. But the project activated its first site Dec. 5 when the Cabinet for Health and Family Services office in Owen County transitioned services to the state-run network. It will eventually connect state offices and institutions, state police posts, state parks and state veterans homes throughout the entire Commonwealth. KentuckyWired's fiber optic network will bring speeds five times faster than what government sites now have.

The project is now more than two-thirds complete and all rings should be up and running by October of 2020.