internet

Bevin Wants to Downsize Scope of KentuckyWired Project

Feb 6, 2016
Jacob Ryan, WFPL

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin wants to downsize a proposed 3,400-mile fiber optic network meant to make high-speed Internet possible throughout the state.

Bevin told the Saving Our Appalachian Region meeting Friday the project is off track. He said he still supports installing the network in eastern Kentucky.

A group of private businesses borrowed $289 million last year to begin constructing the network. Kentucky  government officials promised to pay the companies about $28 million a year for Internet service, which the companies would then use to pay off the loan.

But a key piece of how Kentucky  planned to pay back the loan has fallen apart. Bevin said Friday he wants to try and renegotiate with Macquarie Capital, the Australian-based investment company that is leading the project.

An Australian private investment company will immediately begin developing a high-speed internet network across Kentucky, Gov. Steve Beshear announced on Tuesday.

Beshear made the announcement with Kentucky lawmakers and representatives from Macquarie Capital. A team of Macquarie specialists will develop high-speed Internet across the state over the next few years.

“Improved broadband infrastructure is seen as a key to strengthening the region’s ability to build and diversify that economy,” Beshear said in a news conference.

U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers says the federal government should have a role in spreading high-speed Internet access to the region's struggling coalfields.

The Kentucky Republican said Wednesday that the spending bill passed by Congress last week included $10 million to expand broadband access to distressed areas of central Appalachia.

Rogers said he hopes that's the start of federal investments for broadband access in hard-hit coal regions. As chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, Rogers will have an influential voice in that debate.

Rogers was at the Kentucky Capitol to support a plan outlined by Gov. Steve Beshear in his budget speech to lawmakers Tuesday night. Beshear is proposing a $100 million project to expand broadband access in Kentucky.

The proposal would be supported by $60 million in state bonds.

A national group that has pushed expanding broadband access in other southern states is now focusing on Kentucky. Citizens for a Digital Future is opening up a Kentucky chapter to help advocate for these issues with lawmakers and private businesses.

Kevin Willis

When you walk into the downtown office of VE Creative, one of the first things you notice is the set of huge windows facing Owensboro’s 3rd street, a few blocks from the Ohio River. For the small group of workers here, these windows aren’t just a way to view the pretty scenery outside. They’re also a potential way to help generate online and social media street cred for the company, and--more importantly--downtown Owensboro.