Excitement filled the room at the Broadband Business Stakeholder meeting in Slade, Kentucky on February 24th. Residents and business owners from the area gathered at the Slade Welcome Center to discuss a proposed fiber internet project that seeks to provide service along a two-mile stretch of KY 11 (Natural Bridge Road) in Slade.
The Powell County Fiscal Court and Judge Executive James Anderson recently formed the Powell County Broadband Commission to advocate for the development of broadband infrastructure and services and to ensure that the benefits of the technology are realized in all areas of Powell County. Monday’s meeting outlined their initial proposal.
In order to launch the project, Powell County will invest an initial $15,000 accomplished through a 0% loan from the Powell County Industrial Development Authority. They plan to partner with Eastern Telephone & Technology (ETT) who will offer fiber to the premises with expandable speeds beginning at 50 Mbps symmetrical upload and download.
Richard Taylor, Executive Vice President at The Center for Rural Development, explained that the Slade project is also associated with KentuckyWired. “I’m proud of this community for pulling together to tackle this issue. This is the first non-state last-mile project that will be initiated because of KentuckyWired. The cable that has been run to the state park provides ETT with plant facilities lash the additional fiber cable for this project. Small projects such as this will serve as the testbed for further fiber broadband expansions not only in this area, but also projects such as this all across Southern and Eastern Kentucky.”
In order to move forward, the project needs the commitment of at least fifteen customers by March 7th and organizers anticipate that service will be available 90 days from the start of construction. Local business owners and residents seemed excited about the opportunity that was being discussed, and the general consensus was that there would be more than enough support for the project to move forward.
“It’s exciting and I think that it’s a really great opportunity to expand a lot of the avenues here to promote the great businesses and the things that we have going on here,” said Powell County Broadband Commission member, Beth Atkinson.
Several meeting attendees inquired about service for businesses and residences just outside the current proposed service area. The initial two-mile construction is considered Phase 1, explained ETT CEO, Darrell Maynard. “The success of this project will help justify the feasibility of future investment in other parts of the county,” Maynard added.
The improved internet connectivity would provide businesses with expanded capabilities to process credit card payments, fulfill online orders, sync web and in-store inventories, improve remote camera monitoring, utilize off-site backups, and enhance their customers experiences.
“Slade, KY and the entire Red River Gorge region have been an adventurer’s dream for many years. It has been a place of solitude and adventure. Climbers venture from all over the world to climb in the Red. Hikers, kayakers, and adventure seekers travel from other states to see the sights of Natural Bridge State Resort Park and the Red River Gorge. KY 11 (Natural Bridge Road) is home to Natural Bridge State Resort Park and over 40 small businesses that range from eateries, attractions, cabin companies, and shops. Sustainable internet at an affordable price has never been available. I know that this project will bring more visitors to our area. I know that this project will greatly and positively impact these small businesses. As director of the Powell County Tourism Commission, I can see this being the largest impact on our tourism and our small business industry for many years to come. I am thrilled for the opportunity that the Powell County Broadband Commission, Judge Executive James Anderson, and Eastern Telephone have brought to our community,” said Miranda Fallen, Executive Director of Powell County Tourism.
At the conclusion of the meeting Commission member Jarrett Rose summarized the importance of reliable high-speed, high-capacity internet for citizen’s in the area. “Thirteen years ago, when I was an undergrad at Morehead, I didn’t have any internet and I would go to McDonalds to sign up for classes. Thirteen years later, I’m taking doctorial classes online and it’s still no fun. Lack of reliable internet is almost like saying you don’t have running water or plumbing. It’s 2020 and this is a big step forward. I think we need to take advantage of this and that it is a good deal for everyone. ETT is local and we are not dealing with the conglomerates that we are used to. If we can get people excited about this, we can show them that this is just the beginning of great things for our area.”