The Caldwell Fiscal Court heard information about the four-county study being done to bring broadband internet service to the region.
Last January, the court agreed to take part in the study, which would also include Crittenden, Livingston and Lyon counties. The $24,000 study would be funded by $3,000 from each county and $3,010 through a Regional Development Agency Assistance Program grant for each county.
Amanda Davenport, the executive director for the Lake Barkley Partnership for Economic Development, has been providing the fiscal court with updates as to the study’s progress, and brought a report to the fiscal court on Tuesday.
“We have been really trying to address the issue of how do we get county-wide internet,” she said. “In Princeton, we have decent internet service. Eddyville, Marion — there are a couple of places that you can get decent internet service.
“…Out in the county, at a bunch of homes in the county that are really spread out, it’s nearly impossible to get internet service that isn’t just satellite service, which is problematic because it is dependent on the weather.”
The study began in July, when the funding was finalized by the four counties. It found that it is affordable to develop high-speed internet within the four-county region.
“Based on all the studies that were done, it’s actually a little less expensive if we develop it as a four-county model instead of four individual internet build-outs,” Davenport said.
Davenport said she is working with other entities to see if there is any federal funding opportunities to attract an internet service provider.
“The way we’re approaching this is almost the same way that we do business attraction,” she said. “Showing them what the cost to do business is, how many customers they could have, the local infrastructure that is available to them through Kentucky Wired or some of the other fiber backbones that are already in the area so that we can work with that internet service provider to provide service to every single home in the four-county region.
“The big thing is making sure that we can find a provider that’s going to go down every county road — even the ones that are far apart, even the ones that are spread apart by miles, even the ones that are in hills and valleys.”
Davenport likened the need to provide internet service to providing electricity to rural areas 100 years ago.
“That’s how important internet service is to our area and to everybody to live and work and learn at home when they can’t be at school,” she said.
Davenport said the state is seeking someone to do statewide internet speed tests. Judge-Executive Larry Curling said the tests would help the Federal Communications Commission see how underserved rural areas are.
“(The FCC is) just depending on these (internet) companies reporting to them, and to be honest with you, that’s just false information,” he said.
Davenport agreed, saying the infrastructure is in place, often running close to people’s homes, but residents are unable to hook up to it.
“AT&T just won’t provide service to customers along those fiber lines,” she said. “We’ve seen that time and time again, and that’s another part of what we’re looking into and working with Congressman (James) Comer’s office to figure out what the requirements are, what those federal funds that AT&T received to put the infrastructure in the ground and find out why they aren’t providing service.”
Davenport said the projected cost of the build-out for all four counties would be $135 million.
“What we’ve seen with the feasibility study is that — even without any grants and any type of federal funding to help with the project — there would be positive payback within the first five years,” she said. “This is a profitable project, and it is very feasible to do and provide service, and the internet would be pretty affordable.
“We’re looking at $50 to $60 a month through this study, so it’s not an outrageous price, and we want to be really conscious of, to make sure that people can afford their service.”
The fiscal court approved reappointing John Capps and Mark Thompson to the airport board and Heath Cummins and Sally Hart to the water board.