SOMERSET, Ky. - The Center for Rural Development is helping communities explore ways to become "fiber ready" by applying for its recently launched Technology Assistance Program (TAP), according to an official in charge of broadband implementation for the center.
"This program helps communities begin asset mapping, perform feasibility studies, and conduct pre-engineering analysis of community fiber projects or other activities that will extend the reach of the KentuckyWired fiber infrastructure," said Larry Combs, broadband implementation manager for the center.
Combs says the center is dedicated to making reliable high-speed, high-capacity internet available to as many people as possible.
All of this comes following Gov. Matt Bevin and U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers' recent announcement that a major milestone achievement has been reached for KentuckyWired, the Commonwealth's high-speed fiber optic network.
The first portion of the network, known as Ring 1A, and a key backbone segment from Lexington to Somerset are now complete, allowing for expansion of the network into eastern Kentucky as the project moves into the next phase, Ring 1B.
"I would say Ring 1B will be up and running by mid to late fall," Combs said.
During the announcement Rogers explained the project's origins.
"The Center for Rural Development and SOAR advocated for a transformational broadband system that would revitalize eastern Kentucky. To be fair, the expense to bring service into the depths of our mountains simply has not been feasible for most providers, especially our small rural companies," Rogers said. "But KentuckyWired eliminates that obstacle by developing this ready-made network that providers can connect to and build from. Much like our utility co-ops, our infrastructure in eastern Kentucky would remain decades behind without innovative investments like this."
Rogers also discussed how The Center for Rural Development will be involved in helping to expand the reach of KentuckyWired.
"The Center is playing a pivotal role in accessing Federal funding and providing training for your local leaders and providers to extend the last mile of broadband from the main connectors in each county out to our individual homes and businesses," he said. "The Center for Rural Development in Somerset has technical assistance funding available, and they will be hosting regional training sessions to help Eastern Kentucky leaders implement this last mile."
Combs says the initiative is funded by a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and is administered by The Center for Rural Development for ARC designated distressed counties, which include Boyd, Carter and Lawrence in eastern Kentucky, but not Greenup. He said the center also has additional information about local, state, and federal funds that support the initiative to bring broadband access to rural areas.
"The Center is dedicated to making reliable high-speed, high-capacity internet available to as many people as possible and is working to bridge the digital divide," said Lonnie Lawson, president and CEO of The Center for Rural Development. "The mission of The Center is to positively impact the communities within 45 counties of southern and eastern Kentucky, through supporting the implementation of KentuckyWired infrastructure."
Communities interested in broadband training opportunities are encouraged to contact The Center for Rural Development at firstname.lastname@example.org or 606-677-6000. More information about TAP can be found at https://centertech.com/2019/01/technology-assistance-program-tap/.
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