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Kentucky to build 3,400-mile state-owned broadband network – and a fight is brewing

Bonkers bluegrass broadband backbone battle brings bundled bluster, boisterous bickering

Kentucky's proposed network

Yet another US state is weighing up the idea of laying thousands of miles of cable to create its own broadband network.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that a group of telcos are pushing back against a proposed $324m network involving 3,400 miles of cabling, which would cover 120 counties in the state.

The construction phase of the project is tentatively set to be completed by the Fall of 2018, with a private company building and maintaining the state-owned network.

The Kentucky broadband plan would deliver a backbone network throughout the state, including the rural and mountainous regions that make up much of Kentucky's terrain. Known as KentuckyWired, the publicly owned network would operate as a "middle mile" network, with local ISPs linking up individual homes and offices.

Much like neighboring West Virginia, Kentucky hopes that operating a backbone at the state-level will help bring high-speed, reliable broadband service to numerous areas of the state where commercial carriers have been unwilling or unable to lay down the thousands of miles of cable across sparsely populated areas.

Also much-like the West Virginia plan, Kentucky's state-funded network effort is hitting stiff opposition from cable companies operating in the state. According to the Herald-Leader, the telcos have banded up with small-government advocacy groups to oppose the network, arguing the backbone is unnecessary and would create a state-funded agency that would directly compete with private companies who already offer service in the state.

The Kentucky debate is one of dozens taking place throughout the US over the construction of municipal broadband networks. While city and state governments argue that building their own networks is necessary to overcome sparse coverage and slow internet speeds, ISPs counter that state-run networks waste taxpayers' money and hamper the growth of private business.

The debate has even grown to ensnare the federal government, with the FCC finding itself in the middle of the debate over whether municipal network efforts supersede state competition laws. ®

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