Q: What is KentuckyWired (formerly known as Next Generation Kentucky Information Highway)?
A: KentuckyWired will be a physical system of fiber optic cable, also referred to as the middle mile or backbone, infrastructure that will allow broadband service to be brought closer to communities throughout Kentucky. What’s unique about KentuckyWired is that it will be an open access network. This means local public or private Internet service providers (ISPs) can connect to the network and extend services locally.
Q: Why is KentuckyWired called a “middle mile” network?
A: Think of it as an interstate highway system, or middle mile, that will connect the worldwide Internet to “exit ramps” closer to a community. Internet Service Providers (ISPs), such as the cable or phone company, can then connect their equipment and fiber system to the KentuckyWired network to create a high speed link between the global Internet and local communities. ISPs will be the ones to actually extend fiber to a home or business.
Q: Why is the infrastructure called “dark fiber?” What do you mean by “high-speed, high-capacity” and “lit” fiber?
A: The fiber cable itself is a bundle of tiny glass strands and is only a conduit for transmitting data. The actual ability to transmit information over the fiber optic cable depends on the hardware (or equipment) on either end of a section of cable. The hardware, like a light switch, controls the beam of light on which information travels. If no equipment is lit on the ends, then the fiber is not in use and is called “dark fiber.” Actively engaged hardware means fiber is “lit.” Lit fiber is capable of sending very high volumes of data, voice, and images over the network at extremely high speeds.
Q: Is the state getting into the Internet business with KentuckyWired?
A: No, the project involves laying or stringing fiber-optic cable for the middle mile. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will still need to connect the KentuckyWired middle mile network to business and residential users over the “last mile” in every community.
Q: Why do we need the KentuckyWired network?
A: Unfortunately, Kentucky ranks 47th in the country in broadband speeds and capacity. This puts Kentucky at a major disadvantage for attracting and growing new job and education opportunities for an improved way of life. Broadband, like electricity, water and sewer, is now an essential utility service. However, it has been too expensive for private carriers to build out a high-speed, high-capacity network across the entire state. With KentuckyWired, the state will be responsible for building out the middle portion of a fiber network. Since ISPs can connect to KentuckyWired, they can now invest in extending their local fiber networks that will connect broadband services throughout communities.
Q: How will KentuckyWired benefit my community or me?
A: There will be opportunities for local internet service providers (ISPs) to invest and build out more fiber to homes and businesses. It also opens the market for new ISPs, which will promote competition for potential lower broadband costs for businesses, communities and citizens. More and better connectivity enhance economic development and job growth, support collaborative opportunities for research, education, health care and public safety.
Q: My home/business is in a very rural, isolated area of my county, and I have been told that bringing Internet service to my location is too expensive and won’t happen. Will KentuckyWired change that?
A: Because this will be an open access middle-mile network, many entities can link onto KentuckyWired. Since ISPs, which could include private companies, municipalities or partnerships, will have access to the middle-mile, this allows them to invest in bringing fiber directly to communities, houses and businesses that have not had service before. Also, there is potential for more providers to enter the market, which can create competition and help lower prices.
Q: Will KentuckyWired improve Internet speeds in my home?
A: KentuckyWired does not directly impact home usage speeds, but allows ISPs the potential capacity to increase speeds in your home.
Q: Why are only government and higher education buildings being connected?
A: Every project must start somewhere. Since the state already owns university and government sites, the logical and feasible way to begin KentuckyWired is to connect those nodes. These nodes become the “exit ramps” into the community. Because KentuckyWired is open access, local ISPs can connect on a wholesale basis. In turn those ISPs can provide or build-out last mile service to individual customers. These providers could be private companies, communities, partnerships, or other entities.
Q: When and where is KentuckyWired starting?
A: Construction started in 2015 in Eastern Kentucky because improved broadband service is one of the priorities of the SOAR, Shaping Our Appalachian Region, initiative. It is aimed at diversifying and improving the economy in Eastern Kentucky. The schedule calls for finishing the network in Eastern Kentucky and the segments along I-75 by Fall 2018; then, concurrent construction will begin in other parts of the state with full completion of the network by Winter 2020.
Q: Is Morehead included in the Eastern Kentucky build out? When do you estimate the network will reach Western Kentucky?
A: Morehead is in the northern ring that is planned to go from Lexington to Morehead to Ashland and south through Prestonsburg. Additional details about timing and locations will be available when the final engineering and design work is complete.
Q: In my county, the library has fiber that comes from a provider in Tennessee. Will KentuckyWired cross state lines?
A: Kentucky is well-situated in the central part of the nation, and as we build along highways, we’ll build connection points into Tennessee, Ohio, West Virginia, and other surrounding states. This regional connectivity will allow consumers such as research universities to successfully collaborate with other research universities, both in-state and out-of-state.
Q: When the new network comes into place, will physical connections to new technologies be included in the plan, or will we need to pay for that ourselves?
A: The infrastructure will provide pipe or fiber access only. Applications can ride on the network, for example, Voice Over IP (VOIP phone service), but they are not part of the service KentuckyWired provides. Other service providers will have to be engaged.
Q: What speeds will be available when the project is complete? Will there be a difference in speeds between urban and rural areas?
A: KentuckyWired will provide the same speeds universally across the whole network. The envisioned service rate platform will extend from 100 megabits per second (Mbps) to 400 gigabits per second (Gbps), and will have multiple tiers within that range. Speeds will not differ from urban to rural areas.
Q: The FCC recommends 25 Mbps for distance learning, and I assume that was for a home connection. A library would need many times that speed to support multiple people doing distance learning activities at the same time, right?
A: More capacity through KentuckyWired will allow more high-speed services, such as distance learning.
Q: What about locations where the middle mile exists, but there is no service provider interested in building the last mile?
A: The KentuckyWired build out should stimulate Internet Service Provider growth in unserved or underserved locations.
Q: Some communities, businesses, libraries, and citizens are in monopoly situations with their last mile providers. Will improving the middle mile improve this issue?
A: In April 2015, the Commonwealth released a request for proposal (RFP) for last mile providers. This RFP will make regional awards for last mile providers, and the contracts can be used by local governments, libraries, and others to build out last mile services. While competition cannot be forced, lowering some of the economic hurdles of the middle mile could allow other providers to come into a market and stimulate competition downstream.
Q: Can a community library build its own last mile?
A: Yes, the December 2014 E-rate Modernization Order supports building private fiber to those locations where it did not exist before. The Commonwealth’s contracts for last mile providers are only one resource for building fiber to libraries and other end users.
Q: What makes this project different from the original Kentucky Information Highway (KIH)?
A: The Commonwealth will own the infrastructure and it will be open access. The original KIH was and still is carrier-based, through one provider that sets the rates. Those service-based contracts were for shorter terms, and didn’t have requirements to refresh the network and implement the newest technologies as they become available.
Q: Why did the state decide to use Macquarie Capital, a private company, to do the KentuckyWired project?
A: Following the Commonwealth procurement process, an Australian company called Macquarie Capital was selected for this public-private partnership (P3). Macquarie will operate the system over a 30-year contract, but the state will own it.
Q: What companies are currently under contract to construct, implement and operate KentuckyWired?
A: Macquarie’s consortium partners include First Solutions, Ledcor, Fujitsu Network Communications Inc., and Black & Veatch. Macquarie provides equity investment and is the overall project lead. First Solutions also provides equity investment and is responsible for commercial business development. Ledcor and Black & Veatch are the Design/Build partners. Fujitsu is in charge of operations and maintenance of the network. This consortium includes companies with a Kentucky presence, and the consortium partners have committed to hiring Kentucky companies and workers to positively impact local economies.
Q: How will the investment group make back their money?
A: Commonwealth service fees will move from the carriers that hold current service contracts to KentuckyWired, a Commonwealth-owned network. The Commonwealth and the Macquarie consortium may share revenues from the sale of dark fiber.
Q: As a vendor, will there be a future opportunity for me to get involved in this initiative and how can I track future business opportunities related to KentuckyWired?
A: Information about current and future opportunities is located on the Finance and Administration Cabinet’s eProcurement page: eProcurement.ky.gov. Click on Vendor Self Service, and you may register as a vendor and login. If you prefer, a login is not required to select Public Access to review all solicitations.
Q: How do I sign-up for KentuckyWired?
A: Local businesses and citizens will still receive services from local Internet Service Providers.
Q: How can a private ISP be involved with KentuckyWired?
A: The network will be open access, so ISPs can connect to it and handle the job of providing "last mile" service to communities, businesses and citizens.
Q: Will KentuckyWired use existing infrastructure? Can a municipal utility provider be a part of the KentuckyWired project?
A: Partnerships involving the use of current fiber infrastructure are being explored. Partnering with local telecommunications companies, municipalities and major carriers may allow us to deliver faster and may reduce construction costs.
Q: If dark fiber is already in place, will it become part of the network?
A: A vendor conference was held in early 2015 and representatives of 51 companies attended. Those companies represented electric power co-ops, local telephone companies, national carriers (Windstream, AT&T, Verizon), locally-owned municipalities (Russellville, Frankfort, Owensboro, etc.), and investor-owned electric companies. All have shown interest in this project for various reasons. To leverage existing dark fiber, it must meet specific standards.
Q: Is there a plan for educating the public on the benefits of this network?
A: Press announcements have come from both the governor's office and the SOAR initiative. The project has been written up in several major publications while the team has also been busy presenting updates to many groups throughout Kentucky. These activities will continue, and future plans include broader awareness campaigns.
Q: How can I get the latest information?
A: The latest information is found on the project website, KentuckyWired.ky.gov. The email address is KentuckyWired@ky.gov, and the telephone number is (502) 782-9549.