Leading the charge to bring internet to every Eastern Kentuckian
There are millions of dollars of state and federal funding that can help bring broadband infrastructure to Eastern Kentucky. SOAR is leading collaboration among stakeholders and providers like Kentucky Wired and Accelecom to make last mile development a reality for everyone in our region. With this influx of funding — and a strong gameplan to win it — complete broadband coverage can be a reality.
Eastern Kentucky Broadband Projects
SOAR is constantly working on new broadband projects in Eastern Kentucky. Two initiatives launched in 2022 that led to advances in our region’s access to high-speed internet.
In early 2022, SOAR partnered with SpaceX to offer low-income, senior residents in Bell County free high-speed broadband internet. Called the Starlink Pilot Program, it was funded by the Kentucky Department for Public Health and allowed 30 eligible households in Bell County to access telehealth services. SOAR is currently planning a second Starlink Pilot Program in Eastern Kentucky — if you’re interested in your community being a part of this, let us know.
SOAR, through partnership with the City of Ashland, the City of Catlettsburg, and Boyd County, is exploring the feasibility of community-owned fiber optic broadband infrastructure in Eastern Kentucky. This program is called EKY Connect. You can help by filling out a three-minute EKY Community Broadband Survey.
Helping communities prepare to win broadband funding
Set your community up for success by completing these five essential steps before seeking broadband funding.
Step 1: Form a fiber board
A fiber board or broadband board is a group of diverse community stakeholders who meet regularly to advocate for, make decisions about, and implement broadband.
Responsibilities of the fiber board:
- Conducting feasibility studies and broadband mapping
- Building private and public partnerships
- Prioritizing broadband projects
- Applying for and distributing broadband funding
Step 2: Complete a feasibility study & mapping
A feasibility study is an assessment of the broadband needs of your county — the areas that are strongest and weakest in broadband coverage. Mapping provides a visual representation of these areas.
A feasibility study should include:
- A needs assessment
- An audit of your existing broadband network
- Possible designs
- Provider and partnership options
- Potential roadblocks
- Projected costs for implementation
Step 3: Prioritize projects
Prioritize broadband projects by the areas within your county that need broadband connections the most.
- Number of potential households to be served
- Areas with the worst existing coverage
- School-adjacent zones
- Neighborhoods with important community institutions
- High unemployment zones
- Keep the entire project and everyone’s needs top-of-mind.
- Add the most challenging projects to the top of the list.
- Don’t just focus on your most populous area while leaving the rest of your county behind.
Step 4: Quantify costs
Establish the expected costs for implementing the highest-need broadband projects you’ve identified.
Your costs should include:
- A conservative range of fees to complete installation.
- Operational and administrative fees associated with projects.
- Ongoing fees associated with the broadband provider.
A well-thought-out budget with data to back it up will position you well to secure the funds you need when it comes time to apply.
Step 5: Explore partnerships
Successful public-private partnerships (PPPs) are key to completing broadband projects.
PPP models to consider:
- Shared Ownership, Private Operation
- Public Ownership, Private Operation
- Public Support for Privately Owned and Operated Network
How to submit a winning broadband proposal
For the best chance of winning funding for your broadband project, follow the expert guidelines we’ve laid out after talking to grantors across the region.
Additional broadband and last mile resources
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