Kentucky gets $1 billion grant for Internet expansion

Published 4:09 pm Thursday, June 29, 2023

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Kentucky Today

Last week, Gov. Andy Beshear hinted Kentucky could receive a $1 billion federal grant for broadband Internet expansion in areas that are underserved or have no broadband at all.

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On Monday, he announced it will actually be more.

The state has secured a nearly $1.1 billion federal grant, the largest public investment in high-speed Internet in the state’s history, which the governor says will bring affordable, reliable high-speed Internet service to every Kentuckian.

“Today is a historic day for Kentucky,” Beshear said.  “Thanks to the support from the federal government, we are going to help connect every family, community and business to high-speed Internet.  “Never before have we seen this type of investment in high-speed Internet, and with it comes new infrastructure, more good jobs for our families and a boost to our already booming economy.”

President Joe Biden announced Kentucky’s funding allocation of $1,086,172,536.86 is being made through the $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program, or BEAD.  The program was created through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021 and represents the country’s largest-ever investment in high-speed Internet.  With Monday’s announcement, Kentucky has now received more than $1.6 billion in total high-speed Internet funding since the American Rescue Plan Act was passed in March 2021.

BEAD prioritizes projects that serve areas lacking Internet speeds above 25/3Mbps.  According to the most recent data released last month by the Federal Communications Commission, Kentucky has over 258,000 unserved locations.  The Office of Broadband Development will administer a competitive grant process to distribute these funds to eligible subrecipients, including Internet service providers and local governments, beginning in early 2024.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, who played a part in Kentucky received the funding, called it “essential” to Kentucky’s communities in rural areas.

“In today’s digital age, it’s essential that Kentucky’s communities, from rural towns to urban centers, have access to reliable and affordable high-speed Internet. Today’s federal funding will deploy Internet infrastructure to communities across the Commonwealth that need it most, bringing new opportunity to millions of Kentuckians,” McConnell said. “The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law continues to deliver more wins for the people of Kentucky, and I’m delighted to see this significant investment head our way today.”

Last June, Gov. Beshear announced Kentucky’s largest-ever public sector investment for expanding high-speed Internet: $203 million to ensure access for more than 34,000 families and businesses, which was followed in November by a second round of funding of over $206 million.

In addition, in August 2022, he announced $20 million in grant funding to assist eligible Internet providers with utility pole replacement costs, and in December Kentucky received a $5.8 million planning grant from the BEAD Program.

In February 2023, the Beshear Administration held a 14-stop Better Internet Initiative Listening Tour to hear directly from Kentuckians about their needs for better internet.  Soon the administration will publish a Five-Year Action Plan, a requirement of the BEAD program.