Kentucky gets whopping $196 million in grants to expand high-speed internet access

Published 4:15 pm Tuesday, September 5, 2023

By Tom Latek, Kentucky Today

FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Gov. Andy Beshear announced Tuesday a record $386 million investment to expand access in 46 counties, bringing high-speed internet access to more than 42,600 Kentucky homes and businesses for the first time.

There were 56 grants totaling more than $196 million, awarded from the Kentucky Broadband Deployment Fund, part of his Better Internet program. Internet service providers that received grant funding will also contribute more than $190 million in matching funds. See the map accompanying this story for the counties affected by this award.

“High-speed internet is not a luxury anymore. It’s a necessity for work, school, health care and more, and every Kentuckian deserves access,” Beshear said. “During our first round of state funding, we made the largest investment in our history, and today we are breaking our own record with another historic milestone toward our promise to connect every home and business in the Commonwealth to affordable, reliable high-speed internet.”

House Speaker David Osborne issued the following statement regarding today’s announcement that 56 grants totaling $196 million have been awarded from the Kentucky Broadband Deployment Fund. The state grant money will be matched by $190 million in investments from internet service providers.

Osborne highlights the legislature’s work to expand broadband services, including historic funding and the creation of both the fund and the office to pursue additional funding and oversee grant awards.

“Today’s news is further proof that the legislature’s goal of expanding broadband access is within reach. Make no mistake, Kentucky’s historic investments in broadband expansion would not have happened without the vision and commitment of Rep. Phil Pratt, Speaker Pro Tem David Meade, and Representative Brandon Reed,” Osborne said. “They recognized the need to expand broadband services throughout the commonwealth and drove the legislative initiatives that created and funded the Kentucky Broadband Deployment Fund and the Office of Broadband Development, despite the Governor’s vetoing critical provisions of the plan. While today’s announcement is a step in the right direction, a great deal of work remains to be done before Kentuckians across the commonwealth have access to high-speed internet.”

In June 2022, Beshear announced the first round of awards from the fund, totaling $89.1 million. Combined with matching funds, more than $203 million was committed to ensure access for more than 34,000 families and businesses.

The awards result from a bipartisan agreement signed into law by Gov. Beshear in April 2021 that allocated $300 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars to the Kentucky Broadband Deployment Fund, for the construction of high-speed internet infrastructure to connect areas currently without access.

More funding is on the way to expand high speed internet access even more, according to the Governor, as the federal government awarded Kentucky nearly $1.2 billion in June.

“That funding won’t all come at once, but we hope by the end of the year we’ll be able to draw down the first $200 million, from some plans that we’re filing,” he stated.  “It is there, it is reserved for us, we are going to pull it down, and we are going to deploy it in our communities.”

He said expanding broadband service will benefit Kentuckians for generations to come.  “Think about our interstate highway system and how we take it for granted.  It wasn’t built that long ago.  What we are doing is just as big right now in multiple areas.”