Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
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From the rolling Appalachian Mountains to bustling city streets, Kentucky has it all, including gigabit (1,000 Mbps) service from Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) networks. That’s right, Kentucky - the state that is often used as shorthand in America politics to talk about coal country and poverty - actually has some of the fastest, most reliable Internet service in the entire country. We put together this map using the latest data sets available from the FCC to highlight how much of rural Kentucky has the gold standard in high-speed Internet service.
Cooperatives Cover Kentucky
This is just a brief snapshot using the June 2016 Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) Form 477 data set. This map shows all the FTTH infrastructure available in Kentucky according to the data submitted by ISPs. This data is reported on the census block level and may overstate coverage. Even so, the data reveals how cooperatives provide high-speed Internet service to much of rural Kentucky.
With the best intentions, Kentucky announced in late 2014 that it would build out a statewide open access fiber optic network to at least one location in each county to encourage high-quality connectivity in both urban and rural communities. Hopes were high as rural residents and businesses that depended on DSL and dial-up envisioned connectivity to finally bring them into the 21st century. After almost three years and multiple issues that have negatively impacted the project, legislators and everyday folks are starting to wonder what's in store for the KentuckyWired project.
Local Communities Are Best Suited To Deploy Community Networks
There is no one-size-fits-all method of deploying across a state filled with communities and landscapes as diverse as Kentucky. From the urban centers like Louisville and Lexington to the rocky, mountainous terrain in the southeastern Appalachian communities, demographics and geography vary widely. But most lack modern Internet access and local ISPs have found it hard to get affordable backhaul to connect to the rest of the Internet.
There are several municipal networks in Kentucky, some of which have operated for decades. In addition to Glasgow, Paducah, Bowling Green, Frankfort, and others, Owensboro is currently expanding a pilot project that proved popular. As our own Christopher Mitchell discussed at the Appalachia Connectivity Summit, several cooperatives have made major fiber-optic investments in the state.
When it comes to connecting residents and local businesses, we strongly believe local entities are the best choice. Local officials have a better sense of rights-of-way, the challenges of pole attachments, and the many other moving pieces that go into network investment. Projects with local support see fewer barriers - people are more willing to grant easements, for instance.
Several communities in Kentucky have been managing publicly owned Internet networks for decades, including Barbourville and Frankfort. Residents and businesses depend on their great customer service and quality Internet access. Like everything else, however, telecommunications infrastructure ages and now both communities are considering how to upgrade.
Barbourville Going With Fiber
Barbourville, Kentucky, began offering cable Internet access to residents in the 1990s and were one of the first to offer cable TV service back in the 1950s. Currently, residential customers can opt for 6 or 12 Megabits per second (Mbps) with 384 Kbps and 1 Mbps respectively. Now, the public utility is upgrading to Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH), which will significantly boost both download and upload speeds. Barbourville Utilities advertise identical commercial options for customers with an additional option of 25 Mbps / 2 Mbps. They also advertise symmetrical fiber optic business services that range from 6 Mbps to 10 Gigabits per second.
In their announcement, Barbourville Utilities estimates more than 4,000 residential and business customers will have access to the new FTTH service. They’re christening the new high-quality fiber Internet access “Blink” and construction will start on September 5th.
“We are extremely pleased to bring revolutionary Internet technology to our community,” Barbourville Utilities General Manager Josh Callihan said. “Increasing broadband access is a top priority in southeastern Kentucky and we are proud that our community will be a pioneer for this growth.”
Barbourville is located in Knox County in southeastern Kentucky, within the Appalachians. Like other communities in the region, Barbourville faces unique problems that affect rural economies. Fortunately, Barbourville Utilities have already established infrastructure and the personnel in place with expertise to manage a network. Their past decision to invest in a community network will help keep them stay competitive today as new businesses look for affordable locations with high-quality connectivity.
Frankfort Considering FTTH