Harlan County broadband projects ready to begin

Published 3:12 pm Friday, March 8, 2024

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Harlan County has multiple areas which lack adequate broadband internet access, creating many issues for workers and students alike. The Center for Rural Development has been working with Harlan County officials to improve this situation.

According to a press release, representatives from The Center for Rural Development (The Center) recently met with Harlan County officials, community leaders, and business owners to discuss broadband progress and hear concerns from residents. The meeting, attended by more than 25 residents, was held on Feb. 23, at the Green Hill Senior Center in Bledsoe.

Representing The Center were Lonnie Lawson, President and CEO; Richard Taylor, Executive Vice President; Scott Surber, Broadband Technology Liaison; and Zach Ausmus, Broadband Project Manager.

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Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley opened the program and expressed his appreciation to The Center for its efforts to provide broadband access to unserved and underserved areas in rural Kentucky.

The discussion centered on the state of broadband in the area.

The release states broadband projects underway or planned for Harlan County include:

  • Move the Needle Broadband Cloverlick Project. The Harlan County Fiscal Court was presented with grant funding in the amount of $80,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission and Kentucky Department for Local Government to improve broadband connectivity for up to 125 households in the Cloverlick area. Work is expected to begin soon, and will include approximately six miles of roadway and the installation of fiber optic cable;
  • Harlan County has been designated the pilot county for a speed test, which will be used to collect data to assist with identifying internet speed service gaps and create a map to aid communities in efforts to secure resources to improve broadband service;
  • Harlan County will also serve as the pilot project for Baas (Broadband as a Service), which is an initiative by The Center and ARC. BaaS will aid regional and local government officials, internet service providers, fiber boards, and community organizations in understanding how this model can help bring broadband to unserved and underserved areas in The Center’s 45-county primary service area.

Lonnie Lawson, President and CEO of the Center for Rural Development, provided some information on the ongoing broadband connectivity work during a recent interview.

“What we’re trying to do is listen to the communities and also go into the communities and let them know what resources might be available to them as we get ready for all the BEAD (Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment) funding that’s coming down the pike,” Lawson said. “We’ve got to make sure we do it right while we’re doing it. So, the Center is going out and hosting these listening sessions.”

Lawson explained the state has $1.1 billion in BEAD funding that will soon be made available for broadband projects in communities lacking broadband access.

“Most of it will have a matching component,” Lawson said. “What we’re trying to do is help each of these communities get ready for it when the funding does become available.”

Lawson noted that there are multiple areas in Harlan County as well as across the state being considered as locations for broadband projects. He also shed some light on the intent of the BaaS project.

“Broadband as a Service (BaaS) means instead of the entity that receives the money owning the equipment, the internet provider can own the equipment and they get subsidized for a portion of that bill over a seven-year period,” Lawson said.

Lawson mentioned the Cloverlick project is expected to begin soon.

“It shouldn’t take that long to get that one done,” Lawson said. “I would think by April or May they should be rolling up there…and then with the others, I think we’re really close to getting those ready to go too.”

For more information about how The Center can help with feasibility studies, planning, and connectivity solutions for broadband expansion projects in your community, visit www.centertech.com, contact Scott Suber at 606-677-6000, or email ssuber@centertech.com.