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Broadband expansion announced for eastern Kentucky counties


Earlier this week, state officials announced an expansion of high-speed internet access across multiple counties in southern and eastern Kentucky.

The Center for Rural Development is coordinating the effort to provide better and more affordable broadband services in 16 counties, including Rowan. The project is made possible by $31 million in state and federal matching funds, with about 80 percent coming from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Lonnie Lawson is the President and CEO for the Center. He said the counties included in this expansion were historically underserved when it came to internet service.

“We had to do a deep dive into our mapping process and look at where those toughest to reach, sparsely populated areas are throughout our Center’s 45 county service area,” said Lawson. “These were the 16 counties that came to the top for the worst. We will be going to all of the other counties that’s in our service territory as well, but this is just phase one in that process.”

Lawson added the COVID-19 pandemic illustrated just how important access to reliable internet is to people in the state and beyond.

“There’s a lot of folks moving in from other states just for the quality of life we have in eastern Kentucky, so if we don’t have good, high-speed broadband, they’re not going to move to this area. They have to be able to work remotely no matter where they’re located,” said Lawson.

The plan for the project is to expand on Kentucky’s existing wireless backbone that runs through all 120 counties to make it easier for internet service providers to utilize it.

Lawson says work is expected to begin in 2024, with some areas likely to receive service between three to six months later. The entire project is estimated to finish up in 2025.