Fiscal court to vote on rural internet cooperative agreement

Caldwell County is divided into three Electric Service Areas, as designed by the Pennyrile Area Development District for the Caldwell County Broadband Expansion Project currently underway. Officials said the rural high speed internet initiative will first get implemented in Area B in the southern portion of the county.

The Caldwell County Fiscal Court is meeting Tuesday to discuss and vote on a Pennryrile Rural Electric Cooperative and Hopkinsville Electric System (PRECC/HES) agreement to build out rural broadband infrastructure.

PRECC/HES was one of two bids to submit proposals to the court. In their letter of intent, PRECC/HES officials said, “We recognize with Caldwell County that equal level broadband service should be available to all, rural or metro, and that such service is vital for economic stability.”

PRECC/HES serves customers in Christian, Trigg, and Todd, and Caldwell counties. Its internet deployment package, Energynet, is currently offered to customers in Hopkinsville, North Christian, South Christian, Todd, and Trigg counties, according to the letter of intent.

Judge-Executive Larry Curling said the county is in a good seat because PRECC/HES is matching 100% of county funds as well as state and federal funds to execute the Caldwell County Rural Broadband Project.

“The thing of course with Caldwell County is we got so many cooperatives around here, we’re divided into many electrical companies,” Curling said.

He noted having years of agreements and partnerships with cooperatives to provide electrical utility services serves the county well in its pursuit to secure reliable and accessible high-speed internet.

In summary, PRECC/HES officials said, “The estimated construction time would be 3 years, with a maximum build time of 5 years, which is consistent with the American Rescue Plan Act.”

Curling and the court created an internet subcommittee to coordinate and carry out the high-speed internet initiative.

Jeff Simms, District 4 magistrate, is on the committee with Curling and Lake Barkley Partnership Executive Director Amanda Davenport.

Simms said his constituents have shown a demand for modern internet technology at an affordable price.

“Our big thing is making sure that we allow the coop participants and partners to access as much funding as possible,” Simms said.

Simms said outmoded and outdated internet technology and service takes a toll on underserved, rural customers.

PRECC/HES outlined in its proposal that the Caldwell County Rural Broadband Project is a challenge because the broadband business plan and build program is a very large investment.

Despite scale and complexity, PRECC/HES officials cited their 20-plus year endeavor into the broadband internet market demonstrates qualifications and invaluable knowledge.