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Fiscal Court Moves Forward With Mercer Broadband Expansion

All Points Broadband To Apply For Funding

Light passing through a single-mode fiber optical cable. Image: chaitawat via Wikimedia Commons.

Robert Moore
Herald Staff

The Mercer County Fiscal Court has agreed to enter a partnership with All Points Broadband to expand broadband internet service to unserved and underserved areas in the county. At a special-called meeting on Thursday, Feb. 2, 3 p.m., the fiscal court voted unanimously to commit $1.5 million towards the $28,5 million project.

The project includes a minimum contribution of $12.4 million from All Points, while the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s contribution would be $14.5 million. According to the motion made by Magistrate Tim Darland, the local contribution would only be committed upon notification that a matching grant from the state is approved.
Judge-Executive Sarah Steele called it “a big decision to make.”

The fiscal court entered into a partnership with All Points in June 2022 to create a broadband network to provide internet service to more than 3,000 unserved people in Mercer. County

However, the magistrates tabled making a decision to take the next step in the process at their regular meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 31. Even though much of the expenses would be reimbursed through federal and state funding, several magistrates balked at the cost, saying if would cost $7,000 per household. At that meeting, Chuck Hogg, senior vice president and director of fiber networks and acquisitions at All Points, said the deadline to apply for the latest round of funding is Monday, Feb. 6.

On Thursday, County Attorney Ted Dean asked if they would be able to meet the deadline. Hogg assured Dean and the fiscal court there would be another round of funding.

“If you don’t win one, you’re more likely to win the next,” said Hogg, who called the funding “once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Expanding broadband internet service—the gold standard for commercial internet service—to make the nation more competitive internationally has been a goal for the federal government for decades. According to a 2021 report by the the Brookins Institute, a 10 percentage point increase in broadband penetration can lead to a 1.2 percent jump in real per capita GDP growth in a developed economy.

According to the same report, as many as 42 million Americans lack access to broadband internet, which the federal government defines as a minimum of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download speed (the time it takes to receive data, such as loading a web page) and 3 Mbps upload speed (the speed at which data is sent from a small digital device to a larger server).

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