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Company receives grants to expand broadband

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Improvements include service in rural Hardin County

By Marty Finley

Windstream Communications plans to extend its broadband services to rural parts of southern Hardin County and across Kentucky where it was considered cost prohibitive to expand.

The new service is possible because of about $59.7 million in federal stimulus dollars awarded to the company, said Scott Morris, a spokesman for Windstream.

The stimulus grant requires a 25 percent match from Windstream which will spend nearly $20 million to fill in gaps in its network where broadband service is unavailable, Morris said.

In Hardin County, the project will focus on five service routes where Windstream telephone lines exists. It will cost about $1.6 million locally, $400,000 of which will be funded directly by Windstream.

Morris said Windstream plans to place 60 miles of fiber optic cable, opening up the potential for 770 new customers to come online in the county. The broadband expansion centers in the Glendale, Sonora, Upton and Flint Hill communities, Morris added, and most of the cable will be aerial.

Some companies have gone so far to build new networks, but Morris said Windstream’s costs primarily focuses on placement of fiber optic cable and electronics to shore up the gaps in its system.

In the past, these broadband connections were not financially feasible because of rough terrain or sparse population. While Windstream usually has Internet exchanges in smaller towns, the connectivity fades deeper into rural areas.

Windstream is awaiting environmental approvals at the state and federal levels to start construction.

“We’ll move as quickly as we can,” he said. “We hope to get it done by the end of the year.”

But he said the approval dictates the schedule.

“At some point, bad weather will become an issue,” Morris said.

Work statewide will continue into 2012, he added.

“It will go into next year for sure, maybe into 2013,” Morris said.

Once completed, Morris added, the minimum connection speed will be 6 megabytes per second, which he said will give residents in heavily rural areas the ability to log on and use the Internet in the same manner more populous areas have been using it for years.

Magistrate Dwight Morgan, whose district includes the Flint Hill area, said he is supportive of advancing technology through the county. He said the projects offer Internet but also an opportunity to generate jobs locally as the work is completed.

“And it’s just something we wouldn’t have got otherwise without the stimulus package,” Morgan said.

Morgan also said broadband will give teachers and students more reliable access to online classes, email and other Internet tools.

Magistrate E.G. Thompson, who represents Glendale, Sonora and Upton, said he has been approached by several constituents who say they need better access because their current service frequently disconnects and hampers them from completing online course work, tests and homework.

“This should improve,” Thompson said. “Educationally, this should be a real (benefit).”

Thompson said it also could benefit the local economy by giving residents the option to develop at-home or online businesses.

“I think the citizens will be very appreciative,” he said.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.