kentucky

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Visualization: Fiber In The Blue Grass State

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.

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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.

KentuckyWired: Partners, Poles, Problems Plague Project

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. 

Transcript: Community Broadband Bits Episode 273

This is the transcript for episode 273 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Grace Simrall and Chris Seidt of Louisville, Kentucky, join the show to discuss how their community is taking advantage of the statewide network KentuckyWired. Listen to this episode here.

 

Grace Simrall: This overbuild has significant access capacity. We designed and built for the future.

Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 273 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast from the Institute for Local Self Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. Louisville, Kentucky is taking advantage of an opportunity to drastically reduce the cost of fiber deployment as the state's KentuckyWired Project routes through the area. In this interview, you'll hear Grace Simrall, and Chris Seidt explain how the city will expand their fiber footprint. They'll describe their plans to use the new resource for municipal facilities, public safety, and smart city applications to improve life for residents, and visitors. Now, here's Christopher with Grace, and Chris talking about what's happening in Louisville.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell from the Institute for Local Self Reliance up here in Minneapolis, and today I'm speaking with Grace Simrall, the chief of civic innovation and technology for local metropolitan government in Louisville. Welcome to the show.

Grace Simrall: Thank you so much for having me, Chris.

Christopher Mitchell: We're also joined by Chris Seidt, the civic technology manager for the city. Welcome to the show.

Chris Seidt: Thank you so much for having me.

Christopher Mitchell: I think a good place to start would be to just, you know, for people who haven't been there, it's a wonderful place. Grace, maybe you can tell us a little bit more about what people should know about Louisville.

Louisville To Save Big With Embattled Anchor Network - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 273

Back in June, Louisville had a close call with missing a key opportunity to build municipal fiber to local anchor institutions at a substantially reduced cost. An anti-muni broadband group pushed hard to disrupt the project but city staff educated metro council-members and moved forward with a unanimous vote. 

Louisville Chief of Civic Innovation Grace Simrall and Civic Technology Manager Chris Seidt join us for episode 273 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast to discuss the project and the importance of educating local decision-makers well in advance of they decisions.

We talk about the network extensions Louisville is building to connect key anchor institutions and internal city offices. The network will not only save on connectivity costs by reducing leased lines but also provide increased security and opportunities for efficiency. We also discuss the key points Grace and Chris made to the Metro Council in arguing for this investment. 

This show is 28 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed

Transcript below. 

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Verizon Will Cut Off Rural Subscribers In Thirteen States

A recent proposal being considered by the FCC that has raised the loudest outcry has been the status of mobile broadband in rural areas. Now that Verizon is discontinuing rural subscriber accounts, the FCC will be able to see those concerns come to life.

Dear John...

The company has decided to cut service to scores of customers in 13 states because those subscribers have used so many roaming charges, Verizon says it isn’t profitable for the company. Service will end for affected subscribers after October 17th.

Verizon claims customers who use data while roaming via other providers’ networks create roaming costs that are higher than what the customers pay for services. In rural communities, often mobile wireless is the best (albeit poor) or only option for Internet access, so subscribers use their phones to go online.

Subscribers are from rural areas in Alaska, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin.

In a letter sent to customers scheduled to be cut off, Verizon offered no option, such as paying more for more data or switching to a higher cost plan. Many of the people affected were enrolled in unlimited data plans:

“During a recent review of customer accounts, we discovered you are using a significant amount of data while roaming off the Verizon Wireless network. While we appreciate you choosing Verizon, after October 17th, 2017, we will no longer offer service for the numbers listed above since your primary place of use is outside the Verizon service area.”

Affecting Customers And Local Carriers

Apparently, Verizon’s LTE in Rural America (LRA) program, which creates partnerships with 21 other carriers, is the culprit. The agreements it has with the other carriers through the program allows Verizon subscribers to use those networks when they use roaming data, but Verizon must pay the carriers’ fees. Verizon has confirmed that they will disconnect 8,500 rural customers who already have little options for connectivity.

Philip Dampier at Stop The Cap! writes:

Tennessee Co-op Expands In Kentucky

A Tennessee communications cooperative will soon bring fiber connectivity to Kentucky’s Warren County. North Central Telephone Cooperative (NCTC) will offer high-quality Internet access via gigabit (1,000 Megabits per second) connectivity via its North Central Communications, Inc., subsidiary.

Starting With New Construction

NCTC will start in a new subdivision and has already installed fiber prior to new home construction. The cooperative will also offer services in a nearby apartment complex. NCTC will make Internet access along with video service available to the new homes that are not yet built. They intend to expand to other multi-dwelling units and subdivisions in the area and hope to develop a larger regional footprint.

In order to accomplish their goal, NCTC is enlisting the help of other local entities:

“We’re talking to Warren Rural Electric Cooperative and Bowling Green Municipal Utilities, trying to implement your vision that everyone in Warren County is served by broadband eventually,” said [Nancy White, NCTC CEO]. “We all have the same vision to provide broadband to as many people as want it.”

Not A Stranger To Kentucky

Approximately 120,000 people live in Warren County with a little more than half making their homes in the county seat of Bowling Green. The population has increased steadily by double digits since 2000. It’s located in the south central area of the state and also home to Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College and Western Kentucky University.

On September 8th, the Warren County Fiscal Court approved a non-exclusive franchise agreement to allow NCTC to serve people in the county. NCTC is already serving subscribers in Allen County as part of the Kentucky Wired project. Warren County adjacent on the northwest border of Allen County. 

“They’ve been in Allen County for quite some time, and I have nothing but good things to say about them,” Allen County Judge-Executive Johnny Hobdy said. “They have continued to upgrade and bring service to parts of our county that hadn’t been served. I think Warren County will be satisfied with their service.”

Frankfort, Barbourville Upgrading Systems In Kentucky

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

Court Sides With Louisville: One Touch Make Ready Is A-Ok

Louisville has overcome a tall hurdle in its efforts to bring better connectivity and more competition to the community through local control. On August 16th the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky supported the city’s one touch make ready (OTMR) ordinance. AT&T challenged the ordinance in court, but their arguments fell flat and court confirmed that the city has the authority to manage its rights-of-way with OTMR.

State Law

AT&T’s claim based on state law asserted that the city was overstepping its authority by enacting the OTMR ordinance because it was impinging on Kentucky Public Service Commission jurisdiction. AT&T attorneys argued that, according to state law, the PSC has exclusive jurisdiction over utility rates and services, but the court found that argument incorrect.

Within the state law, the court found that the OTMR ordinance fell under a carve-out that allows Louisville to retain jurisdiction over its public rights-of-way as a matter of public safety. The ordinance helps limit traffic disruptions by reducing the number of instances trucks and crews need to tend to pole attachments. The court wrote in its Order:

AT&T narrowly characterizes Ordinance No. 21 as one that regulates pole attachments. But the ordinance actually prescribes the “method or manner of encumbering or placing burdens on” public rights-of-way. … It is undisputed that make-ready work can require blocking traffic and sidewalks multiple times to permit multiple crews to perform the same work on the same utility pole…. The one-touch make-ready ordinance requires that all necessary make-ready work be performed by a single crew, lessening the impact of make-ready work on public rights-of-way. … Louisville Metro has an important interest in managing its public rights-of-way to maximize efficiency and enhance public safety. … And Kentucky law preserves the right of cities to regulate public rights-of-way. … Because Ordinance No. 21 regulates public rights-of-way, it is within Louisville Metro’s constitutional authority to enact the ordinance, and [the state law granting authority to the PSC] cannot limit that authority. 

Federal Jurisdiction

The Many Networks of Williamstown, Kentucky

Among the rolling hills and mountains of Appalachia sits the small city of Williamstown, Kentucky, in central Grant County. Home to about 3,500 people, Williamstown is the center of connectivity for the county. The city’s fiber provides high-speed connectivity to local businesses, while its long-running cable network keeps folks connected in the town. Williamstown operates a small Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network in the southern half of the county and offers much of the rest of the county fixed wireless service.

Williamstown Cable Center of Connectivity

Roy Osborne, the Superintendent at Williamstown Cable told us how this small town had developed so many different projects throughout the county. Within the town itself, the network is a hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) system that supports speeds from 20 Megabits per second (Mbps) to 100 Mbps download for residents and businesses alike; upload speeds vary from 2 Mbps to 10 Mbps.

For large institutions, Williamstown Cable builds fiber lines to provide reliable, fast connectivity. It serves most county facilities, such as the courthouse and detention center. It even brought a fiber connection to the theme park just outside of town -- the Ark Encounter, based on the biblical story of Noah’s Ark. Osborne recalled the high level of Internet service in the small town surprised the developers. 

The community was not going to let its rural neighbors remain without connectivity. In 2007, the town started a project to bring fixed wireless service to the surrounding county. Williamstown Cable found a way to bring some of the fastest, most reliable Internet service to a small community of Corinth in southern Grant County in 2010. They used federal funding to build a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network to the 200 people in the town. 

How Williamstown Built So Many Networks

Watch Video From Appalachian Ohio-West Virginia Connectivity Summit

If you weren’t able to make it to the Appalachian Ohio-West Virginia Connectivity Summit in Marietta, Ohio, on July 18th or if you’re just interested in learning more about improving connectivity in rural areas, you can still almost be there. Video of Christopher’s keynote address is available to view.

The event occurred on July 18th at Washington State Community College in Marietta, Ohio. In addition to Christopher’s presentation, there was a panel discussion about community ownership models. Other experts offering information included Marty Newell from the Center for Rural Strategies, Kate Forscey from Public Knowledge, and former chairwoman of the FCC Mignon L. Clyburn, who also spoke at a Town Hall that evening.

For more information on connecting rural America, including the Appalachian regions, check out these resources:

More Resources:

Access Appalachia page - Our page includes federal statistics on broadband availability and federal subsidies for large Internet Service Providers. Find toolkits and detailed maps of 150 counties in Kentucky, Southeast Ohio, and northern West Virginia.

Central Appalachia Broadband Policy Recommendations from the Central Appalachia Regional Network

The Fiber Broadband Association's Community Toolkit from the Fiber Broadband Association

Broadband Planning Primer and Toolkit from the Appalachian Regional Commission

 

Get more information from:

Appalshop of Whitesburg, Kentucky

Blandin Foundation

Common Cause