Next Gen KIH program taking broadband to every corner of the state
By Trisha Ostrowski
Recognizing the importance of broadband connectivity to all types of business and industry, Kentucky is actively working to become one of the nation's top states for broadband speed and availability. This work has support at many levels in the state—starting with the governor's office. "We cannot get companies to even consider locating in an area that doesn't have broadband. This is just one reason high-speed broadband Internet is important for the entire Kentucky economy, not just urban areas," said Gov. Steve Beshear.
In early 2014, Gov. Beshear helped announce the Next Generation Kentucky Information Highway (Next Gen KIH), which will expand broadband capability to all corners of the Commonwealth.
Next Gen KIH is a statewide middle-mile communication network that is not only being built to meet current needs, but more importantly is positioning Kentucky to be a national leader in high-capacity Internet service connections. It's also designed to maximize shared services opportunities such as advanced engineering systems, shared e-Learning environments, and clinical systems across the state.
The initial phase of the project is expected to take two years to build and will include more than 3,000 miles of fiber infrastructure, often referred to as "middle mile" dark fiber. Cost estimates for the project are around $100 million. The architecture of the project has been designed to ensure reliability, redundancy and resiliency.
The underserved eastern Kentucky region will be the first priority for the project, bringing broadband to some of the state's most rural areas. Involved in the project with the state are the Center for Rural Development (CRD) and the "Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR)" initiative, created by U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers and Gov. Beshear to move Kentucky's Appalachian region forward.
CRD will lead the first phase of broadband expansion in eastern Kentucky. With a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Center has initiated a feasibility study that will outline the costs and plans of laying dark fiber to meet broadband needs in eastern Kentucky. The study should be completed by the end of January 2015.
"The expansion of high-speed broadband is a monumental step in improving the quality of life for citizens in Kentucky, but especially rural populations that are underserved and struggling," said Lonnie Lawson, president and CEO of The Center for Rural Development. "High speed broadband opens many doors of opportunity for business expansion and attraction in high-growth industries, employment, education and healthcare. It will help us realize the possibilities coming from the SOAR Initiative and allow us to compete in an interconnected global economy."
To build the massive fiber optics network that will give broadband Internet access to the farthest reaches of the Commonwealth, the state is working to build a public-private partnership. A Fiber Leadership Group has been formed and the state currently is seeking private partners that will build, operate and maintain the statewide, open-access network.
"The Next Generation Kentucky Information Highway will help Kentucky make tremendous strides toward being a leader both in terms of speed and presence of high-speed Internet connectivity," said Gov. Beshear. "Infrastructure such as roads, sewers, water lines and classrooms are critical to our quality of life and economic vitality. Today, we also have to invest in another kind of infrastructure – the kind that will break down geographic and financial barriers to education and economic development. This initiative will change the economic landscape, connect Kentucky to the global economy, enhance service delivery and encourage competition."