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Australian Firm Will Help Expand High-Speed Internet Across Kentucky

Liam Dunn/Creative Commons

An Australian private investment company will immediately begin developing a high-speed internet network across Kentucky, Gov. Steve Beshear announced on Tuesday.

Beshear made the announcement with Kentucky lawmakers and representatives from Macquarie Capital. A team of Macquarie specialists will develop high-speed Internet across the state over the next few years.

“Improved broadband infrastructure is seen as a key to strengthening the region’s ability to build and diversify that economy," Beshear said in a news conference.

Kentucky lags behind the national average in access to high-speed internet connections.

Kentucky lawmakers have made expanding broadband, primarily in eastern Kentucky, a priority through the group Shaping Our Appalachian Region.

In 2012, two-thirds of Kentucky households had access to broadband internet, according to a report by the University of Kentucky Center for Business and Economic Research.

Nationally, 73 percent of households had access that same year, the report said.

Here is a access map from that report:

In January, Beshear announced a $100 million plan to expand high-speed internet access in the state. On Tuesday, he announced that the total project cost is not yet known, but it's estimated to be between $250-$350 million, using only $50 million in state and federal sources. The rest will come from the private marketplace, said Beshear.

Design and cost estimates are due by the end of February 2015.

The project’s final cost will rely on fiber that may already be in place in local communities, he said.

“If we’re successful at bringing all of those folks on board it’s going to cost us less to lay the rest of the fiber,” said Beshear.

The project, which will include more than 3,000 miles of new fiber, will be completed in stages.

The first stage will design and build a series of main fiber lines across the state focusing on I-75 from Northern Kentucky to Williamsburg and then southeastern and eastern Kentucky, which will be completed by April 2016.

The second phase will extend the network across the state by the fall of 2016, using government buildings, schools and other facilities as “community anchor institutions.”

Finally, between 2016 and 2018 more government entities will be connected to the network. The private sector and local telecommunications service providers will branch off the main lines to deliver service into communities.

Further, Beshear said the network will remain open to companies to lease space and force completion in the marketplace, which could lead to lower costs for consumers.

Macquerie Capital will operate the network over the next 30 years.

The company will bear developmental and operational risk; Kentucky will retain ownership of the network, said Beshear.