The long-awaited Kentucky Wired project, originally meant to extend broadband service to underserved parts of the state, is nearing completion. But the COVID-19 pandemic is putting even more pressure on project leaders to work quickly.
As the need for remote learning, telehealth services, and online communications rapidly expands, the goal of building out internet infrastructure in rural areas has become even more urgent.
Jamie Link is the Executive Director of the Kentucky Communications Network Authority, which oversees Kentucky Wired.
“Broadband is now critical infrastructure in today’s world,” he told an online Pritchard Committee panel Wednesday. “It’s perhaps not as important as water, sewer, electricity, natural gas, and what not, but we see it now and I think COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of connectivity and the need for this service.”
Link says workers have installed over 3,300 miles of fiber-optic cable, which he compares to an interstate highway with on and off ramps. Making that last connection from the off ramps to homes, businesses, and local governments will be responsibility of area internet providers.
In addition to meetings and classrooms, which have shifted online during the pandemic, project designers say Kentucky Wired will be necessary to break down barriers of isolation and improve the capabilities of first responders.