BRADENTON, Fla. - Kentucky is partnering with Macquarie Capital to develop the state's 3,000-mile fiber "backbone" infrastructure to bring high-speed Internet to every corner of the state.
Macquarie Capital will design, develop, and operate the network over the next 30 years, and assume developmental and operational risks, state officials said.
Kentucky will retain ownership of the network, which will reach all 120 counties in the state. The cost is estimated to be between $250 million to $350 million, and will be supported by about $30 million in state bonds, and up to $20 million in federal grants. The design and firmer cost estimates are due by the end of February.
By using a public-private partnership, Gov. Steve Beshear said the project will be paid for up-front by leveraging private capital at no additional cost to taxpayers.
"If we were to rely solely on state government funding to get this project off the ground, it would take years, if not decades," Beshear said. "In this technology-dependent economy, we can't afford to wait another minute."
Macquarie Capital group will invest private capital to design, build, and operate the network. The group will aggressively market the availability of high speed broadband to existing and new last mile providers.
Macquarie's consortium partners in the project include First Solutions, Fujitsu Network Communications Inc., Black & Veatch, and Bowlin Group.
The first stage of the project is to build the main broadband fiber lines across the state to provide an "open access" network that will allow the private sector to use the fiber to deliver services to communities.
Once complete, Internet service providers, cities, partnerships, or other groups can tap into the "middle mile" lines to complete the lines that run to individual homes and businesses.
Where fiber optic systems already exist, the state's project will use existing infrastructure and partner with local telecommunications companies and municipalities to reduce construction costs.
The underserved eastern Kentucky region will be the first priority area for the project.
Kentucky ranks 46th in broadband availability. Today, about half of the state's households use broadband service. Nearly one-quarter of households, including 23% of rural areas, do not have access to high-speed Internet.