SOMERSET – On Wednesday, Gov. Steve Beshear, U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers and Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Federal Co-Chair Earl Gohl announced $1 million in grants to strengthen Kentucky’s effort to expand high-speed broadband to every corner of the state, starting in Eastern Kentucky.
The funding will support the construction of a $4.5 million training facility to house the Broadband and Technology Education Center on the Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC) Pikeville campus.
Gov. Beshear committed $500,000 in a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Gohl pledged $500,000 through an ARC grant. The presentation was part of the ARC Annual Conference Meeting in Somerset this week.
Working in partnership with the University of Pikeville (UPIKE) and the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP), the BSCTC Broadband and Technology Education Center will house the Kentucky Regional Telecommunications Installation and Maintenance Training Program, and will serve as a hub of broadband education and training in the southeastern region of the United States.
The project is additionally funded by a $2.2 million grant from the federal Economic Development Agency announced last week, and $1.2 million from BSCTC.
The grants announced Wednesday are capitalizing on the major KentuckyWired infrastructure investment and the bi-partisan efforts to diversify eastern Kentucky’s economy through the SOAR initiative.
With construction beginning on the high-speed, high-capacity broadband network, KentuckyWired or the I-Way in Eastern Kentucky, the demand for certified technicians in telecommunications installation and maintenance is already evident as telecommunications providers look to the future.
“We have hard working people in Eastern Kentucky who have been hit hard by a huge decline in coal jobs in recent years,” said Gov. Beshear. “BSCTC sees the need for eastern Kentuckians to train for jobs of the future and this training will support the building and maintenance of the KentuckyWired broadband network.”
“This new training facility is a critical step for preparing our students and workforce for the newfound opportunities that lie ahead, thanks to the I-Way,” said Congressman Rogers. “We will not be limited by internet speed or capacity. The only limit to how we utilize this new resource will be our own creativity.”
Gov. Beshear and Congressman Rogers are co-chairs of SOAR.
The training program is designed for certifications in telecommunications installation and maintenance with options to continue into an associate’s degree program of study. Training will also be available to upgrade existing employee skill sets.
“Investing in education and workforce development is key to building the region’s economic future,” said Gohl. “As Kentucky’s broadband infrastructure will not reach its economic potential without having a skilled workforce ready to go, facilities like this will help keep Appalachia competitive in the tech economy.”
“The Department for Local Government is proud to partner in this endeavor,” said Commissioner Tony Wilder. “The Community Development Block Grant is an important tool that communities have access to through our department. We look forward to seeing the new facility and to see a successful training program.”
Kentucky has entered into a public-private partnership (P3) to finance, build, operate and maintain the network for 30 years. This partnership with Macquarie Capital allows the middle-mile project to begin sooner and be completed in three years, and it provides for maintenance and refresh of the network over the contract. The private partners have a target for hiring Kentuckians.
KentuckyWired is starting in eastern Kentucky and over the next three years will spread throughout the state.
KentuckyWired will break down geographic and financial barriers to education and economic development by providing affordable, high-quality Internet service to connect Kentuckians to the world.
The potential to tap into the global economy, compete for higher paying jobs, collaborate with researchers across the globe, take classes online, or access increased medical care makes KentuckyWired one of the most important infrastructure projects for all of Kentucky.