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In-Depth: Projects are underway to bring broadband to rural Kentucky communities

Router Internet
Posted at 12:21 AM, May 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-25 16:15:41-04

CLARK COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — For years lawmakers have worked to try to bring better internet access to Kentuckians with the nation's slowest service and others without any service at all. Now money has started to pour in to start projects.

Nearly forty percent of Kentuckians lack access to adequate internet service according to FCC standards. Most of them live in rural areas not equipped with broadband lines.

Donald Wittbrodt and his family lives in one of these areas on the edge of Clark County. As a software engineer, he has to have reliable internet. He says it's been a battle to find something that works.

"Anytime I would have to do something I would have to go down to the office in downtown Winchester just to do any of my downloads and stuff I need," said Wittbrodt.

After trying to manage with cell phone hotspots, Wittbrodt decided to purchase a Starlink satellite. Even though he does have internet the speed of service isn't what he needs.

"We've kinda just had to use all these different options just to get by because without those we'd have basically nothing," said Wittbrodt.

According to county data, he's far from the only one in the area with unstable or inadequate internet. Local officials have mapped out areas across the county with nearly nine thousand people or businesses in the same position.

Research company BroadbandNow estimates roughly one in ten Kentucky residents are not able to purchase the slowest speed internet plan of 25 mbps and it's even worse in rural communities.

The FCC says 39 percent of rural Americans don't have access to 25 mbps service compared to only 4 percent of urban Americans.

Knowing this, state lawmakers have designated over $300 million to expand broadband in rural communities across Kentucky.

So has the federal government, awarding billions and partnering with private companies.

Some of those projects are already underway.

One project is underway in Clark County by Spectrum, Charter Communications to bring better internet access to 2,400 people and businesses in the community.

"We really made it part of our mission to make sure that we were at the table in making an investment in these communities," said Marva Johnson, Group Vice President.

With 58 million dollars from the federal government's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, Spectrum, Charter Communications will bring better internet access to 300,000 Kentuckians over several different projects. They are just one internet provider with projects underway.

For many rural communities, getting good internet access can only happen by using broadband services and installing the technology requires a lot of money.

Senator Ralph Alverado (R-Clark County) says for companies, it was likely a financial decision to act now.

"You're saying I'm going to put down a lot of money to invest in something, is my return gonna be worthwhile and so it wasn't worthwhile because it's a lot of money and would take them too long to recoup the funds from that. So, what's happened now is government has said, 'hey, we'll help you in that investment'," said Alverado.