FRANKFORT, Ky., July 11 -- Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky. (5th CD), issued the following news release:
Governor Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers announced today that two requests for proposals (RFP) are being issued this month on a public-private partnership (P3) project to build critically-needed high-speed broadband Internet access to the farthest reaches of the Commonwealth.
Increasing broadband access in eastern Kentucky is a primary focus of the project.
An RFP was released today by the Commonwealth of Kentucky in conjunction with the Center for Rural Development seeking private partners to build, operate and maintain a statewide open-access, high-speed broadband network. A complementary RFP seeking equity partners for the project will be released next week. The Commonwealth may establish one contract using either the equity or concessionaire model.
The Next Generation Kentucky Information Highway will help Kentucky make tremendous strides toward being a leader both in terms of speed and presence of high-speed Internet connectivity, Gov. Beshear said.
"Infrastructure such as roads, sewers, water lines and classrooms are critical to our quality of life and economic vitality," Gov. Beshear said. "Today, we also have to invest in another kind of infrastructure - the kind that will break down geographic and financial barriers to education and economic development."
"This 'Super I-Way' will pave a high-tech future for eastern Kentucky," said Rep. Rogers. "It will launch our rural region into the global playing field, creating new job opportunities, innovative access to healthcare, enhanced educational opportunities, and much more. We are eager to move forward with this project to help grow eastern Kentucky's economy."
The initial phase of the project is expected to take two years to build and will include more than 3,000 miles of fiber infrastructure, often referred to as the "middle mile."
Currently, Kentucky ranks 46th in high-speed broadband Internet availability. Nearly a quarter of the Commonwealth's population - 23 percent - has no access to broadband.
"Today, only about half of Kentucky's households use broadband Internet service, and nearly one-quarter can't access broadband at all," Gov. Beshear said. "We're going to fix that with an ambitious plan to extend broadband access, initially focusing on eastern Kentucky."
The push for reliable, accessible high-speed broadband is one recommendation that emerged from "SOAR," the "Shaping Our Appalachian Region" initiative that seeks to move Kentucky's Appalachian region forward.
"Much like previous generations' efforts to build sewer and water systems, the electric grid and paved highways, this broadband initiative will solidify Kentucky's place in the new global economy," Rep. Rogers said. "Our investment in it will pay dividends in the years ahead."
The RFP is available online at http://finance.ky.gov/services/eprocurement/pages/default.aspx. Click on the Vendor Self Service link and choose public access.
For more information about SOAR, visit http://governor.ky.gov/soar/ and follow SOAR activities on Facebook@ShapingOurAppalachianRegion and on Twitter @SOAR_EKY. To contact the SOAR office, call 606-444-5127 or 606-437-5127.
About the SOAR initiative
The SOAR initiative was launched by Gov. Beshear and Congressman Rogers in late 2013, after a stunning downturn in the coal market exacerbated historic challenges in eastern Kentucky related to unemployment and poverty. More than 1,700 Kentuckians attended a one-day SOAR summit in Pikeville in December. SOAR is intended to help the region develop and put into action new locally-oriented strategies to attack persistent challenges.