Expanding internet access in Ky. remains priority

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Gov. Andy Beshear is urging broadband providers to complete their applications and submit proposals that support Kentucky’s expansion of internet access to unserved communities across the state.

The governor, through a bipartisan agreement with state legislators, aims to create 14,500 new jobs and help the state lead in the post-COVID economy through his Better Kentucky Plan.

The bills, passed at the end of the 2021 legislative session, will direct American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, or ARPA, funds to boost the state’s economy by building new schools, delivering clean drinking water and expanding access to broadband.

“In today’s technology-dependent society, access to reliable, high-speed internet can no longer be considered a luxury available only to those who can afford it.  In fact, broadband is foundational to our future economic growth, particularly in areas of the state previously deemed unprofitable to serve,” Gov. Beshear said.

He noted, “Over the last 18 months, we have seen just how critical reliable internet access is for all of us to stay informed, safe and connected to work, school, health care, friends and family. And now, we look to our broadband community to tell us how they would use the funds available to support the construction, development or improvement of broadband access across the commonwealth, with our unserved communities receiving first priority.”

The Finance and Administration Cabinet has issued a Request for Proposals, or RFP, for $50 million in federal ARPA funds allocated to bring internet access to those who need it most through the Kentucky Broadband Deployment Fund.

The RFP will remain open until Oct. 25, 2021.  Beshear and the General Assembly agreed to allocate $300 million of the State Fiscal Recovery Fund portion of the ARPA money to expanding broadband.  The first $50 million of the broadband deployment funds are available to award by April 2022.

The state is soliciting bids from broadband networks owned, operated or affiliated with local governments, nonprofits and cooperatives, as well as private providers with a focus on serving entire communities. Proposals will be evaluated based upon the applicants’ ability to meet defined conditions, in order to receive funding.

Combined with at least 50% required matching federal investments, a minimum of $600 million will support broadband expansion in Kentucky, creating more than 10,000 direct and indirect jobs. Coupled with the recent broadband speed test, access mapping, and the KentuckyWired project, Beshear says the state has the potential to move to the forefront of broadband expansion nationwide.

 

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