Jason Petrie, Kentucky State Representative from the 16th District, spoke at Logan County’s Fiscal Court Meeting Tuesday about state-allotted broadband funds that are up for grabs and how the county could apply for a slice of that pie. He gave a detailed account for the finding opportunities supplying the court with much-needed information on how to proceed forward and get in line for monies that could bring internet connection to parts of the county currently unserved.

“There is a deployment broadband fund at the state level that has existed for a couple of years. At this last session, the 2021 session, we passed House Bill 320, which essentially put $300 million in the broadband deployment fund,” said Petrie. “Of the $300 million, $50 million was sectioned off to deal with economic development. Another $50 million was available to get broadband for economic development purposes. The remaining $200 million has specifically been designated for broadband to the Last of the Last Mile,” said Petrie.

Petrie said a good way of thinking about Last of the Last Mile is, “You are on a road and have one, two, three, or maybe four houses in a mile, those are the Last of the Last Mile. The reason it’s called that is, if you are a broadband provider, you have to have some kind of business model. Some kind of money that’s coming in to recoup your losses and be able to sustain yourself. When you get to one, two, three, four, and sometimes even 10 houses in a mile, there is no business model that supports that development anymore. That’s just not a model that can make it. So what we did was, we took that $200 million and said, look, if some entity wants to deploy broadband to the Last of the Last Mile where it’s either underserved or unserved and it’s a small geographic region, this money can be set up as a 50-50 match.”

The $200 million that’s left for that Last of Last Mile is set to be let out in April of 2022.

“This gives you a ballpark outline of what’s going on,” said Petrie adding $300 million is a lot of money but it’s not the end. Petie further explained how without high-speed internet access, Logan Countians are being left behind. “They are not going to be able to do their banking without proper broadband service. They are not going to be able to have sufficient video for telehealth. They are not going to be able to go to school remotely when they have to. They are not going to be able to talk to an expert when they need to or watch a video effectively of the fiscal court proceedings.”

Petrie said that $300 million will not get everyone broadband even with a 50-50 match. He said he felt confident more money would be coming down the pike.

“We’ve got a federal infrastructure bill coming. We are working on details of what that means, what is in it, and what are the restrictions,” said Petrie. “We also have American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money still available which very clearly says it can be used for broadband, water, and sewer projects. I believe there is a strong commitment in the General Assembly at this point. This is something that will continue for several years in the future if we are going to successfully accomplish it.”

Magistrate Tyler Davenport told Petre the county wanted to go after any monies available that it can get because economically that puts Logan Countians behind if they don’t have broadband to every household.

Magistrate Thomas Bouldin asked Petrie if the $200 million would be allocated on a first come first serve basis or would it be designated by a geographical area or by county? Petrie said it would not be based on geographics or by county.

Magistrate Barry Joe Wright stated he has been in touch with Petrie on this several times and he hates the county missed out on the $50 million by not making the deadline. Petrie told Wright it was okay because there is plenty more and at this point, he hopes and anticipates there will be more after this.

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