While broadband funding is more abundant than ever, these funds won’t arrive at our doorsteps in our time of need. Eastern Kentucky towns and counties must work together to take full advantage of the current national focus on broadband expansion.
SOAR keeps a close eye on open broadband funding opportunities — check this page regularly for updates.
We want to see 100% of Eastern Kentucky households and public/private facilities gain access to high-speed coverage. This goal will require us to close the funding gap in our region.
SOAR commissioned a resource to help community leaders identify where these funding gaps are. The Eastern Kentucky Federal Funding Map gives us insight into macro- and micro-level trends and will help you prepare for your future funding grant applications.
What the Eastern Kentucky Federal Funding Map tells us
The Eastern Kentucky Federal Funding Map is a visual tool that identifies where federal funding has (and hasn’t) been deployed for broadband projects in Eastern Kentucky.
SOAR commissioned this map along with Connected Nation, the Appalachian Regional Commission, and incumbent service providers to enhance the visibility of this important issue.
The map is intended to support the following stakeholders:
- Community associations in the process of forming a fiber board and developing a broadband installation plan.
- County commissioners, local leaders, and other concerned parties responsible for improving their town or county’s workforce participation, health, and overall well-being.
- Local business owners and engaged residents ready to become a part of the movement.
Statement from SOAR’s Executive Director, Colby Hall
This map is a call to action. Community leaders can use this resource to get organized and go after the opportunities available to us.
“We’ve seen incredible progress thanks to visionary leaders like Congressman Hal Rogers, Governor Andy Beshear, and incumbent providers like Eastern Kentucky telephone cooperatives,” said Colby Hall, the Executive Director of SOAR and regional broadband champion. “Now is the time to fill in more of this map.”
The stakes couldn’t be higher. “If we get just 9% more EKY households connected to high-speed broadband,” said Hall, “58,000 individuals will gain access to the booming remote work economy and free or affordable local career training opportunities.”
Broadband bears a direct link to enhanced workforce opportunities in rural communities. According to Hall, “We’re planning for investments in broadband to improve workforce participation in our most distressed counties and reduce or eliminate the population out-migration plaguing our region for decades.”
We can’t continue to voice complaints about our connectivity issues if we aren’t willing to face the challenges before us. The resources are out there to power our broadband projects, but we as communities still have to go out and get them, then put them to good use.
How to use the Eastern Kentucky Federal Funding Map
Visit the map on your desktop. The map key on the right side connects each program with a unique color shading and outline. There are 6 filters to guide your inquiries.
The map displays all 7 funding programs by default. To see an individual program, click the “Filter” button in the upper-right-hand toolbar. You can hide all 6 programs, then unhide each one by one for your research.
Use the zoom tool to take a closer look at the programs supporting your town and county.
Federal broadband funding programs
The map plots out coverage for 7 federal broadband funding programs. Find a description of each below along with past and present application timelines.
- USDA Community Connect (2012-present) connects rural, economically-disadvantaged communities with financial assistance for broadband installation and internet user service costs for up to 2 years.
- USDA ReConnect (2020-present) is currently accepting applications from rural proposed funded service areas (PFSAs) where at least 50% of households have internet speeds below 100 Mbps/20 Mbps. Its fourth round of funding is prioritizing the electric cooperative model for broadband deployment.
- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF, 2020) authorized $20.4 billion to bridge the digital divide for rural households and small businesses.
- The FCC Connect America Fund II Auction (CAF II, 2018) is in the process of distributing $1.488 billion to 103 providers to bring high-speed broadband to rural 713,176 households and small businesses. At least 50% will gain access to download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second.
- The FCC Alternative Connect America Cost Model (ACAM, 2016) currently issues monthly payments to approved service providers to incentivize the modernization and expansion of voice and broadband service.
- FCC ACAM II (2018) refreshed the original ACAM program with additional funding and required providers to deliver faster download/upload speeds to qualify.
- CAF Broadband Loop Support (CAF-BLS, 2018) reformed the FCC’s Interstate Common Line Support (ICLS) program to help carriers recuperate voice and broadband loop losses. It also issued minimum service requirements for all participating providers per the 2018 Rate-of-Return Reform Order.
Note: the map groups FCC ACAM, ACAM II, CAF II, and CAF-BLS under one filter view, though you may view FCC CAF II coverage on its own.
5 steps to incorporate the Eastern Kentucky Federal Funding Map in your broadband plan
Now that you have access to funding coverage data, the inevitable next question is what to do with it. Complete these 5 steps to make full use of this information.
Step 1: Use the map to identify funding gaps in your area
You can use the county lines filter to identify where funding coverage occurs.
Use the filters to toggle the FCC & USDA programs on and off to get a sense of the exact programs that have served your region to date.
This data can help you develop broadband partnerships across town and county lines.
Step 2: Ask the tough but important questions
After looking up your home or workplace address, you may find that you’re in an area with poor service that has yet to receive funding.
Why is that? And what’s the plan to change it?
Ask your local leaders these questions. Your voice will have an impact on their decisions and priorities for the coming years.
When asking these questions, you should also ask yourself what you can do to be a part of the solution.
Broadband projects are complex and require assembling a team that brings many skills to the table. The effort will require fundraising, project management, grant writing, financial projections, contractor sourcing, partnership building, and more.
Step 3: Know that you’re not alone in this
Broadband projects are a significant undertaking. Don’t let that prevent you from getting started.
Your best bet is to rely on the strength of a dedicated group of residents, local leaders, and technology experts. We recommend all Eastern Kentucky communities form a fiber board to gain the support of your community and increase your chances of seeing projects through to the end.
Step 4: Familiarize yourself with free broadband resources
SOAR has partnered with broadband deployment experts to bring Eastern Kentuckians up to speed with the latest guidance. Check out these key resources to guide your projects from start to finish:
- Broadband funding listings and last-mile broadband deployment
- Getting Funded: The 2022 Manual for Writing & Winning Broadband Grants
- SOAR blog, where we regularly post grant opportunity announcements and discussions about funding application strategy
Step 5: Start somewhere
Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good. Start the work today.
What matters is that you get started. If you don’t, you’re leaving funding opportunities on the table. And those will only be available for a brief time.
Passionate community members need you to step up. Today. Contact SOAR for a 1:1 consultation from our team of broadband experts.
Additional funding programs to have on your radar
In addition to the federal funding programs listed on this map, a few new ones will soon be going live. Keep these in mind as you prepare your application strategy.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (IIJA) is relatively new. The state government has the funds in hand and will soon open applications for broadband grants.
Learn more about the IIJA-funded programs coming online soon:
The Kentucky Office of Broadband Development is currently accepting applications for the second funding round of the Kentucky Broadband Deployment Fund. The 2022 Rural Infrastructure Improvement Fund grant application process is also live.
Additional resources provided by the Eastern Kentucky Office of Digital Literacy
Eastern Kentucky’s Digital Navigator Lizzie Gillum leads the programming offered by the EKY Office of Digital Literacy.
Her work will enhance digital equity throughout the region by working with residents to use online resources and access new career, education, and social connection opportunities.
The EKY Office of Digital Literacy provides training, awareness building, and hands-on support, such as:
- Increasing enrollment in the FCC Affordability Connectivity Program (both broadband service and device subsidies for low-income households)
- Digital skills training, such as preparing to apply for jobs online
- Ensuring residents are aware of and start leveraging the EKY Job Catalog
Next steps for the Eastern Kentucky Federal Funding Map
SOAR offers our sincere thanks to our project partners:
- Connected Nation
- Appalachian Regional Commission
- Incumbent service providers
These organizations provide critical resources to help communities address broadband and digital technology gaps.
To learn more about how to use the Eastern Kentucky Federal Funding Map, contact SOAR today.