$386 million to fund broadband projects across Kentucky from public-private investment

by McKenna Horsley, Kentucky Lantern

Gov. Andy Beshear on Tuesday announced $386 million in public and private investments to expand high-speed internet access to homes and businesses in 46 Kentucky counties.

Full list of the awards

Joined by local officials and business representatives, Beshear said in a news conference that the 56 awards were the largest public sector investment in state history. More than 42,600 homes and businesses will have broadband access for the first time. 

The state’s contribution comes from the bipartisan American Rescue Plan Act enacted by Congress in 2021. The General Assembly in 2021 allocated $300 million of ARPA funding for the Kentucky Broadband Deployment Fund. 

In the new round of grants, more than $196 million will come from the state fund, while internet service providers will put up more than $190 million in matching funds. 

 Broadband projects funded by the the $386 million announced Tuesday will be in the light blue counties. (Screenshot from the Governor’s Office)

The first round of awards from the state fund in June 2022 totaled $89.1 million, which combined with matching funds, came to more than $203 million to provide access for more than 34,000 families and businesses, said a release from the governor’s office. 

The new round of dollars will support projects in Eastern, Western and Central Kentucky. Similar funding awards were announced in 2022. 

Harrison County Judge-Executive Jason Marshall was among county officials at Tuesday’s announcement. He said the dollars for a project in his county will move it “forward into the future” and help local schools, farmers and home businesses. The Harrison County project has a budget of more than $31 million.

Adam Falk, the senior vice president of government affairs for Charter Communications, thanked Beshear’s administration and said its broadband office’s project was the best in the country. Charter Communications, which owns Spectrum Mid-America, previously committed more than $220 million in Kentucky to expand broadband. According to a list of awards from the governor’s office, Spectrum Mid-America will receive more than $116 million for projects announced Tuesday, including the Harrison County project. 

“The more we invest, the further the commonwealth’s money will go, meaning that all Kentuckians will obtain the benefit of being part and getting access to the digital age,” Falk said. 

Beshear used the announcement to tout his administration’s record on economic development, a cornerstone of his reelection campaign. Beshear said Kentucky has several “incredible projects going on right now” in addition to expanding broadband, such as making the Mountain Parkway four lanes and work on the Brent Spence Bridge in northern Kentucky. The governor called Kentucky’s ongoing infrastructure projects an “Eisenhower moment.” 

“We should be hopeful, we should be optimistic and we should be excited in Kentucky right now because we are moving forward faster than so many of our other states,” Beshear said. 

Photo: Adobe Stock