FRANKFORT — Eastern Kentucky would be the first recipient of a plan to extend high-speed fiberoptic network cable around the state, under a plan announced Wednesday by U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers and Gov. Steve Beshear.
The plan calls for $100 million to be spent on the project, including $60 million in state bond money and $40 million in federal and private dollars.
Beshear said the plan would help improve the quality of life in Eastern Kentucky.
“Access to high-speed and high-quality Internet is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity in the 21st century economy,” Beshear said. “Businesses and schools demand it. Our communities that lack reliable high-speed access will lag behind in economic development, distance learning and advanced health technologies, and that’s unacceptable.”
Rogers also touted the network’s benefits in making Eastern Kentucky competitive for attracting new, high-tech employers.
“The new ‘Super I-way’ will level the playing field,” Rogers said. “It takes away our historic barriers to better jobs, the difficult terrain and isolation. All of a sudden, the world is flat and the famed superior work ethic of our people will be able to compete with the world from home.”
On Thursday, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Wednesday’s announcement, coupled with a plan to widen the Mountain Parkway announced last week, shows that Beshear and Rogers are honoring commitments they made at last month’s SOAR conference in Pikeville, to invest in Eastern Kentucky.
“I think we should thank the governor and thank Congressman Rogers,” Stumbo said. “It’s obvious that some of the ideas that were brought up at the SOAR conference are being utilized.”
The initial phase of the Next Generation Kentucky Information Highway project could take 2-to-3 years to build nearly 3,000 miles of fiber infrastructure, which is often referred to as the “middle” mile.
The project will incorporate the current and best available technology at a speed of up to 100 gigabits per second. Where available, existing fiber will be used.
“This world-class Internet infrastructure will bring high-speed Internet, or broadband, closer to communities throughout the state,” said Lori H. Flanery, secretary of the Finance and Administration Cabinet. “It opens up possibilities for Kentuckians to connect with the world at the highest speeds available, allowing them to truly participate in today’s global environment.”