Kentucky Wired’s troubled five-year history and its heightening of partisan divides in Frankfort was all but forgotten Wednesday when it brought its high-speed fiber optic cable to the Warren County Courthouse.

State and local officials from both sides of the political aisle welcomed workers from Morehead’s G&W Construction Co., the contractor hired by Kentucky Wired to run the cable to the courthouse as part of a project to connect nearly 1,000 government offices and institutions across Kentucky to the state-run network.

“There are great advantages to getting this cable to the courthouse,” said Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon, a Republican. “It should increase our capacity and speed greatly. Having this connection will help all our offices.”

He’ll get no argument from state Rep. Patti Minter of Bowling Green, a Democrat.

“I think broadband internet is a basic right,” Minter said, “and I think the state needs to work on it.”

Kentucky Wired Communications Director Randy Lutke said the courthouse is one of about 20 Warren County sites that are being wired with the 288-strand fiber optic cable and will eventually be connected to the Kentucky Wired Network by the Commonwealth Office of Technology.

Lutke said sites such as the Warren County Justice Center, the Warren County Public Library, Kentucky State Police Post 3 and the new Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Real ID office will soon have internet access that is “at least five times faster” than current access.

Lutke said the Kentucky Communications Network Authority, which oversees Kentucky Wired, has the ability to provide internet connections that exceed the one-gigabit-per-second speed that is touted as the gold standard by internet service providers.

“Our capacity is bigger than a gigabit,” Lutke said, “but how much goes to your house is up to the internet service provider.”

Despite such capabilities, Kentucky Wired has been beset by problems and even calls for its disbanding almost from its creation. Originally sold as a program that would cost $50 million, with a sizable chunk of that covered by a federal grant, Kentucky Wired now has a price tag in excess of $1 billion.

“It turned out to be a debacle,” said state Rep. Steve Sheldon, a Republican from Bowling Green. “They had trouble getting partners and access to utility poles. It’s still a sore spot around Frankfort.”

Despite that criticism, Sheldon said Wednesday’s wiring was a positive step.

“I’m very grateful that the courthouse has access to this cable,” he said, “and I’m glad that internet service providers will have the opportunity to connect to the Kentucky Wired network.”

Lutke admitted Kentucky Wired has been over budget and behind schedule, but he insists that it’s an investment that is just beginning to pay off.

“The whole project of fiber construction is about 95 percent complete,” he said. “Kentucky Wired is the middle mile in providing internet service.

“We’re like an interstate highway but not like the private road that comes to your house. It’s up to private internet service providers to bring it to homes. Along our 3,000-mile path, private companies can connect to us and extend their service to underserved areas,” he said.

That defines the true value of Kentucky Wired, Minter said.

“As we’re dealing with this unprecedented pandemic, it shows us clearly why access to high-speed internet is important,” she said. “It’s a human right. You can’t be part of the workforce without it. We can’t leave our children behind because they don’t have access. We must provide this to everybody.”

Buchanon is already seeing evidence of how the Kentucky Wired “backbone” is helping extend broadband internet to rural areas.

He cited the example of a partnership between Warren Rural Electric Cooperative Corp. and the North Central Telephone Cooperative that is bringing high-speed internet to Boyce and Alvaton.

“The WRECC board has really focused on this (internet service) and the partnership with NCTC,” Buchanon said. “I believe they’re going to expand it throughout the county, and they tell me Kentucky Wired has helped them.”

Such “piggybacking” on the Kentucky Wired backbone is how the state-run program is going to produce the revenue to offset its cost overruns, Lutke said.

“The more providers who connect, the more revenue we have coming in,” Lutke explained.

Even a skeptic like Sheldon admits Lutke’s formula could eventually be Kentucky Wired’s saving grace.

“It was a very poorly run project that the state got too deep into too quickly,” Sheldon said. “But once you get in that deep, you have to finish it.

“I guess it’ll pay for itself in the fact that our kids and grandkids will possibly tie into this (Kentucky Wired’s infrastructure) through their internet service providers.”

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.

(3) comments

Sgalat

I think this highlights the lack of understanding by city and county leaders on the challenges with internet that many people living here struggle with. Funny how we heard from officials and judges alike about how they feel internet is a basic right, yet none of them care to lead the county and city into the future. The statements in this article is proof that they really have no clue on fiber deployment here. All they know if that their courthouse now has better than 1 gig speeds so once again it's the mentality that once they got what they needed they are done. If internet is a basic right then how come there is no formal program/board to develop a basic plan for fiber backbone design and hold ALL these providers to it. A board that controls permitting and holds these companies accountable for progress based on not only agreed upon dates but commitments for coverage percentages. These need to be based on how many new homes they are reaching vs. existing. Everyone keeps pointing the Warren Rec program but must not of read the most recent details with regard to missing deployment deadlines and penetration rates in rural county areas. The county and city plans are non existant and so are the commitments for improving "basic rights" of the citizens in the area. The judge and city council members have zero rights to comment on progress when all they are concerned about is getting fast internet to the gov't offices. You can talk about basic rights when you are leading us to the accomplishment of that direction. Right now it's embarrassing.

The_Shadow_Knows

I fully support the Burn Loot Mob when it comes to burning down courthouses. This country is plagued by lice called lawyers who cause a typhus called lawsuits. Not to mention traffic court which exists for the sole purpose of extracting money from the law abiding tax paying middle class by bovine excreta tickets to fund the injustice system.

Enough Already

“I think broadband internet is a basic right,” Minter said,

Everything is a basic right with democrats. This is one stupid woman.

Now that government has helped themselves to the premium internet service it should just be a matter of 2 or 3 decades before the rest of us get it. Nobody takes care of government better than government. Meanwhile Spectrum and AT&T will continue to rape the common every day consumer. Thanks for nothing.

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