Broadband providers’ input needed for internet aspect of Better Kentucky Plan

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Graphic courtesy: MGN Online

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ/Press Release) – As the Better Kentucky Plan moves toward its next phase, Gov. Andy Beshear is asking for input from broadband providers. This phase is focused on bringing internet access to more Kentucky families who need it through the Kentucky Broadband Deployment Fund.

According to the state, the $1.3 billion Better Kentucky Plan will create 14,500 jobs in the Commonwealth. Around 10,000 of those jobs will be connected to broadband expansion.

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“COVID-19 demonstrated just how critical it is for all Kentuckians to have reliable internet access to stay informed, safe and connected,” said Gov. Beshear. “This is the first step toward strategically using these funds to support the construction, development or improvement of broadband access across the commonwealth, with our unserved communities receiving first priority.”

Using a Request for Information (RFI), the state is collecting ideas, suggestions and comments from broadband providers and will use those in figuring out the questions to be asked in the upcoming formal Request for Proposals (RFP). The comments will also help decide other conditions providers must meet to get funding.

Through House Bill 320 and House Bill 382, Kentucky’s Broadband Deployment Fund will help private sector entities and governmental agencies in the cost of constructing the “last mile” of broadband access to unserved and underserved households and businesses across the state.

Included in the fund is $300 million in state dollars earmarked to address the connectivity needs of these communities, including $250 million for the construction of broadband infrastructure to connect unserved and underserved areas – no more than $50 million of which may be awarded before April 1, 2022 – and $50 million for economic development opportunities.

Broadband networks owned, operated or affiliated with local governments, nonprofits and cooperatives, as well as private providers with a focus on serving entire communities, are encouraged to respond.

Responses to the RFI may include application requirements, applicant qualifications, project areas, data reflecting the geographic areas of unserved communities and other information that will assist in the development of the RFP.

The RFI will remain open until 3:30 p.m. on Monday, July 12 and may be found on the state’s vendor self-service portal.

If a provider has a User ID and password, log on with those credentials. If a provider is not registered with the Commonwealth, click on Guest Access on the upper left side of the screen.

Then, click on the Solicitations tab to see a list of solicitations available and their status. Use the keyword search field at the top, middle of the page and search by keyword “broadband” or the RFI number “2100000013.” Click on the Details box and then on the Attachments tab. There, a provider will be able to access the links to download the solicitation and all of the attachments associated with it.

For assistance with the e-procurement site, contact the Customer Resource Center at Finance.CRCGroup@ky.gov or phone at 502-564-9641 or toll-free 877-973-HELP (4357). The Help Desk is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

Along with the Broadband Deployment Fund, the Better Kentucky Plan will include:  $250 million to improve water infrastructure across the state, creating approximately 3,800 jobs; $127 million for local school districts to fund construction and renovation projects, which – along with other Better Kentucky Plan investments in education – could create up to 1,000 jobs; and more.