SOMERSET, Ky.— Today, U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers (KY-05) announced a $7.8 million federal grant for The Center for Rural Development to help communities in Southern and Eastern Kentucky connect to the KentuckyWired Project. The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) awarded the competitive grant to expand The Center’s outreach in 26 communities where broadband access is needed the most.
“As school districts strive to educate our students online during the pandemic, many of our students are getting left behind without access to high speed, high capacity broadband. They are the future leaders of this region and we simply can’t afford restrictions and delays to their education. The urgency for broadband access in the mountains has never been greater, and this grant gets tools out the door to help our communities connect to the state’s new high performance broadband network,” said Congressman Rogers, who helped champion regional access to the KentuckyWired network. “I applaud the ARC for investing additional resources in Kentucky’s Appalachian region to bridge the gap between local and state connectivity.”
The Center will provide assistance for local last mile feasibility studies, engineering and design services, and necessary equipment for connectivity. Local leaders will also have the opportunity to partner with broadband experts throughout the process.
“We are so thankful to Congressman Rogers, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Commonwealth of Kentucky, particularly the Kentucky Communications Network Authority (KCNA) on helping to get funding for our region’s communities to gain last mile access to high speed broadband,” said Lonnie Lawson, President/CEO of The Center for Rural Development. “If there is one thing this pandemic has shown us, it is the desperate need to have high speed broadband in our communities for our children to be able to continue their education and for our residents to have access to valuable healthcare and to be able to do their jobs. At The Center, we are working every day to make that happen.”
Currently, Kentucky ranks among the weakest in the nation for average Internet connection speeds, and Eastern Kentucky ranks even lower than the state average. Kentucky ranks 46th in the nation in broadband availability, while 23 percent of rural Kentucky has no wireline broadband access available. Only half the state’s households subscribe to a broadband service.
KentuckyWired will support increased access and greater bandwidth availability for schools, public safety, healthcare institutions and government offices with direct connections to the network, providing between 1 to 10 Gig depending on need. In addition to ARC funds, the Commonwealth of Kentucky will provide $1.9 million bringing the total project funding for this phase to $9.7 million.
To learn more about Congressman Rogers’ work in Washington and in Kentucky’s Fifth Congressional District, visit halrogers.house.gov and follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.