After five years, Kentucky’s statewide broadband expansion project, KentuckyWired, is now reaching its final stages.
KentuckyWired is a state-run project that constructed 3,000 miles of high-speed, high-capacity, open-access fiber optic cable across all 120 Kentucky counties. The project, which is the first of its kind nationwide, is aimed at connecting much of the state’s rural areas to high-speed internet.
Construction of the project is complete, and the project is currently in the final steps of commissioning — as well as, what officials call, the “migration” of government sites onto its system — which should be completed by the end of the year. As the project nears completion, KentuckyWired CEO Rob Morphonios said that he encourages all Kentuckians to see how they can connect onto the network.
“The network is rapidly completing to get to all the counties of Kentucky, and now it’s time for those constituents in each county to start contacting their local service providers, their local governments, the state government, and find out how they can connect to our system that we built,” Morphonios said.
The project, Morphonios said, started in 2015 when state officials looked into expanding broadband access in Kentucky’s rural areas.
“When they were entertaining projects to run high-speed internet out to rural areas, I think, ultimately, they decided, ‘Why don’t we just become the first state to own our own network and take it to all 120 counties so there isn’t a county in the commonwealth that doesn’t have access to high-speed internet?’” Morphonios said.
The network’s first priority, Morphonios said, was to connect to local and state government institutions, like government offices, universities, state police posts and state parks, and the available capacity outside of government use will be able to be leased out by internet service providers in order to bring high-speed internet to everyday Kentuckians.
“We built it with basically double the capacity needed for the commonwealth’s governmental use so that that other half of the capacity could be made available for wholesale leasing to internet providers in just about any county, state, city across the commonwealth,” Morphonios said.
Cellular providers will also be able to lease capacity from the network and connect to the open-access internet, which will build more cell phone towers throughout the state. The project is expected to save Kentucky millions of dollars by owning its own “middle mile” network rather than paying private companies to use their networks and by leasing half of its fiber strands to private companies, according to the KentuckyWired official website.
Morphonios said that local residents in Eastern Kentucky can benefit from the new open-access network by requesting that their local internet service provider connects to it.
“That’s how your local residents would find a way to make use of the network we’re putting in place is to start talking to your local service providers,” Morphonios said. “If your local service provider is a local co-op or a utility company, tell them to start contacting this entity that was formed by the commonwealth in a company called Open Fiber. Their sole business is to sell capacity of our network to those that want to use it on the private side.”
KentuckyWired is meant to help promote economic development in rural areas, Morphonios said, because companies want to make sure there is high-speed, high-capacity internet access in any area in which they plan to develop.
“It’s solving the digital divide in the state and where there was no high-speed internet access in rural areas and where it was needed for economic development in the state,” Morphonios said. “For any of the large companies thinking of coming to the state or starting a business or manufacturing plant, this is one of the boxes that they need to check, that there is high-speed internet in the area. … This is very important for economic development.”
Also, he said, the project will help any Kentuckians who must work from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic or Kentuckians working from home in general. He expressed the significance of the project and optimism for what it could mean for Kentuckians.
“In the times that we’re living in with COVID, everyone has realized the importance of telecommunicating, schools being able to have students work from outside the school and do their work virtually, medical institutions, just about every large business to government agencies, schools, universities, all need high-speed internet access,” Morphonios said. “I think this in the end will be one of the greatest projects undertaken to help Kentucky with its economic development going into the future.”
For more information about KentuckyWired, visit, www.kentuckywired.ky.gov, or visit the “KentuckyWired” Facebook page.