Pulaski County, Ky., Looks to Extend Rural Broadband Service

In a recent meeting of Pulaski County Fiscal Court, Judge-Executive Steve Kelley asked magistrates to approve up to $2,000 toward a broadband feasibility study to be conducted by Ridgenet Network Group.

by Janie Slaven, Commonwealth Journal / August 30, 2019
Rural Illinois Shutterstock/Ian Dikhtiar

(TNS) — Do you have access to broadband where you live?

If you live more than five miles outside of Somerset, Ky., chances are you don't  and that's something that Pulaski County, Ky., officials hope to change. In Tuesday's meeting of Pulaski County Fiscal Court, Judge-Executive Steve Kelley asked magistrates to approve up to $2,000 toward a feasibility study to be conducted by Ridgenet Network Group.

"We have an issue facing us about how to get high-speed, broadband internet out to our outlying areas of the county," Judge Kelley said. "It's a puzzle we've been trying to solve and with the help of KentuckyWired, we're almost to the point where we can solve this puzzle."

KentuckyWired is a state-run project constructing over 3,000 miles of high-speed, high-capacity fiber optic cable in every county in Kentucky. Judge Kelley noted that the "backbone" cable is extending from the Cincinnati area into Somerset, but now the county must figure out how to extend service out to homes.

"The infrastructure is not there right now, and for a small company, they can't afford the infrastructure," the judge acknowledged. "It's not a profitable venture to reach out into the outskirts of the county."

Judge Kelley continued that the project might be "break even" for the county, however. Ridgenet representative Alex Wilson advised that the study would examine whether it is more feasible for the county to build a series of towers (sub-hubs) and lease bandwidth out to private companies or instead invest with private companies. The towers would be multi-purpose -- used for cellular service and two-way radioes in addition to internet.

"It takes a lot of capital upfront," Wilson said of the difficulty companies like his have had extending service," and we live in a geographically-challenged area. Hills, trees and forests cause a lot of problems, especially in the wireless business, but we can cover a lot more ground in a wireless business."

Wilson estimated the study could take 30 days to complete. It would also examine where the towers should be built (with special attention paid to improving connectivity for local volunteer fire departments), how best to acquire land as needed, and interest from the private sector.

"You won't be able be able to hit every single home," Wilson said, "but this will tremendously increase the ability to reach the most amount of homes possible.…

"There's a lot of ways for the county to save a lot of money, help the community and potentially make money," he concluded. "There's a lot of good things to come out of something like this. KentuckyWired is here…They've built the highway and it's up to us to build the on and off ramps for that highway."

The court approved the study on a motion from Magistrate Mark Ranshaw with a second from Magistrate Mike Strunk.

©2019 the Commonwealth Journal (Somerset, Ky.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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