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Beshear, Rogers Celebrate Start Of Statewide Broadband Network Construction

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Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and Republican Congressman Hal Rogers on Monday celebrated the start of construction of a broadband network, KentuckyWired, that will extend 3,400 miles throughout the state when completed.

The project will be built over the next three years and is estimated to cost $324 million, with a majority of the funds fronted by Australian investment firm Macquarie Capital and a consortium of other investors. Macquarie will operate the network for 30 years as part of a public-private partnership.

The state legislature has also appropriated $30 million for the project, and the federal government has put forward $23.5 million.

Beshear said the project would help make Kentucky more economically viable in the future.

“When KentuckyWired is complete, Kentuckians in every corner of our state will be able to tap into the global economy to compete for higher-paying jobs, to collaborate with researchers across the globe, to take classes online or access increased medical care,” Beshear said.

The first phase of the project is slated for the eastern part of the state and will include a series of fiber lines focusing on I-75 from Northern Kentucky to Williamsburg, and then southeastern and eastern Kentucky. That phase is scheduled for a April 2016 completion.

Nick Butcher, head of North American infrastructure at Macquarie Capital, said the construction would benefit the local economy as well.

“We're committed to using local Kentucky labor to construct this project, creating important local jobs and providing our team with boots on the ground and local knowledge that we need for our team to get this project done,” he said.

According to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky Center for Business and Economic Research, two-thirds of Kentucky households had access to broadband Internet.

Earlier this month, Beshear signed an executive order to create a governing board for the network, which will manage the partnership between Macquarie and the state.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. Email Ryland at rbarton@lpm.org.