Within two years, the County of Lyon will likely be almost covered with a more reliable and faster Internet. The tax court moved closer to that goal on Thursday when members voted to negotiate contracts with two companies to install fiber optic cables.
The court divided the county into two zones, A and B, and allowed the Internet team – made up of Executive Judge Wade White, County Attorney Lee Wilson, and Third District Magistrate Jeff Fowler – to negotiate contracts with Pennyrile Electric in Zone A and Fastnet. in zone B. Zone A covers all of Lyon County south of Eddy Creek, which Pennyrile already serves with electricity. Zone B includes the rest of the county north of Eddy Creek. Pennyrile’s proposal asked for $ 500,000 in financial assistance and Fastnet asked for $ 1 million.
A third proposal from Conexon on behalf of Kenergy did not include a clear timeline, a clear financial request, and neither a start nor end time.
“We were interested in an actual plan that had actual start dates,” White said.
The county received $ 1.594 million from the American Rescue Plan Act passed in March. And the tax court chose to spend the entire amount to help providers install a fiber-optic internet network. White believes the county will receive further federal grants on the $ 3.5 trillion bill currently going through Congress.
“With the money we currently have, we will be serving over 2,000 homes with fiber internet,” White said. “I believe there are about 3,500 homes in the county outside of the city limits. It will therefore be well over half of the residents of this first round of financing. “
The two plans give White “almost a sense of relief” to finally have a plan that can bring reliable internet to most of Lyon County.
“Over the years we have faced two major problems: 1) we did not have enough money to entice businesses to (install) the Internet, and 2) if we applied for a grant, who would be willing to do so. to work the fiber? he said. “COVID 19 changed that a lot and forced some utilities to come to the table to help their customers. I am very proud of Pennyrile Rural Electric for deciding to enter the fiber business. The other thing that has changed is that Fastnet has bought equipment to run the fiber and wants to be a supplier in our county. So finally, after fighting this difficult war for years, the perfect storm of money and businesses wanting to serve Lyon County came together, and we were ready to jump at the opportunity because we’ve been planning since. years.
“I’ve given myself about an hour of celebration on this, but it’s really back to work to find grants now to fill the void… I won’t be fully satisfied until we have access to the Fiber optic internet in the county to anyone who wants it. I am happy to believe that we have finally found a way to bring the Internet to the majority of the people in the county very soon. “
The cities of Eddyville and Kuttawa have received $ 659,000 and $ 173,000 in grants, respectively, and could use it for similar projects if they wish.
“There are currently several federal grants and we have a team… who are going to help us,” White said, quoting Amanda Davenport, executive director of the Lake Barkley Partnership and Pennyrile Area Development District staff. “We will be working with all the counties that actually lay fiber in the county. We will do our utmost to continue to obtain grants to expand fiber optics in the county.
Fastnet installed wireless internet here in 2012 when Lyon County received a federal grant of $ 250,000 from a previous program. “Of course, wireless can only reach those it can see from the towers,” White said. “We were limited but they were able to connect around 800 people in Lyon and Caldwell counties. Over the past year, Fastnet has made great strides in fiber. “… They made a lot of investments … and they actually laid fiber on Elkhorn Tavern, Shelby Road, Lisanby and Hillside Trail.” “
Mike Calvin, Director of Network Operations for Fastnet, outlined his company’s plan. Over the past year, the company has started to replace its copper cables in some areas with fiber.
“We have never stopped growing our network,” Calvin said. “Over the years, we’ve realized the limits of wireless… whether it’s tree growth or topography, we need to look at the options. … We started our first fiber project in the county about a year and a half ago on the Hillside Trail.
“We used it as a pilot program to test if we can put it in the ground in this topography. Since then, we have added two more areas in the county with fiber, and we are seeing incredible adoption by people who want fiber technology.
A few customers who were selling their homes said in their listing that the home had fiber optics, Calvin said. Home builders also asked if some areas have fiber optic internet access. Federal funding allows fiber optic service to be installed in areas previously not served by an Internet service provider. Approximately 1,710 homes will be served by the first round of funding. Fastnet’s proposal covers a period of 24 months. Construction planned by Calvin will begin a few weeks after the contract is signed with the county.
Alan Gates, president / CEO of Pennyrile Electric, expressed his gratitude to the court and said it was wise to divide the installation into sections.
“We are a cooperative; our interest is to serve our members; we have been serving this part of the county of Lyon for over eight years, ”he said. “We started hearing from our members five or six years ago. And that started to push us to provide the internet, and the reason is that we have the way to all of these areas. We own the (power) lines. We already have a relationship with people.
When the co-op began to think about what it would take to set up an Internet system, they learned that the cost was over $ 100 million.
“When you envision an area of two or three customers per mile… it just doesn’t make financial sense to us like it doesn’t for other (suppliers) or they would already be there. So we had to get help. It will take partnerships to make this work. It’s going to take money to make this work. So we started talking to some of the other justices in the county. We needed Christian, Trigg, and Todd because that’s where our initial fiber backbone was. We needed to involve these people so that we could build the backbone of Lyon County, Logan County, and Caldwell County. It’s sort of our wheelhouse.
“Now is the time to do it. I think there will be more grant opportunities over the next three or four years than we have ever seen.
Preliminaries for the timeline of how this will play out for Zone A in Lyon County are currently underway.
“We are in the process of doing an engineering study which should be completed by December,” said Gates. “Once the study is complete, the cooperative will begin to build the backbone, which should take a little less than a year. The backbone is what we’re going to move away from to actually install fiber optics in homes. Pennyrile will extend this backbone into Lyon County… for which the co-op will spend $ 11 million, not to mention what the co-op will match dollar for dollar from each county.