Burnside has broadband. Or will soon, anyway.
Numerous local officials gathered in the Burnside City Council chambers on Monday to usher in the arrival of Kinetic by Windstream broadband internet service into southern Pulaski, an area which heretofore had gone without the fastest online speeds.
The fiber broadband expansion project will provide high-speed internet connectivity to more than 4,200 local homes and businesses.
“It provides the speed to homes that don’t have it now,” Burnside Mayor Robert Lawson told the Commonwealth Journal. “It’s not been available in this area. It will help businesses, but it will help people who want to work from home as well. … A lot of people work from home every day, and if they don’t have that speed or internet service, their opportunities are less. But this makes it more efficient for them.”
It will even help Burnside government itself, noted Lawson, as that kind of brisk online access hasn’t been available at City Hall before.
Anything south of the Cumberland River Bridge with a Burnside address is included in the expansion, said the mayor, such as those in Tateville and Antioch.
“This means a lot to the citizens and businesses,” said Lawson. “… (Working from home is) a thing that’s happening with COVID being here, it’s a reality, we’ve got to deal with it.”
Lawson said he expects the high-speed broadband to be up and running for the community by late April.
As a result of Kinetic’s multi-state network expansion, Windstream either has or will have fiber in every county it serves in Kentucky over the next couple of years, according to a release from the telecommunications company.
As part of a $2 billion, multi-year initiative to dramatically expand gigabit internet service across its 18-state footprint, Kinetic is deploying fiber to bring faster internet to 4,247 Burnside residents.
Windstream President of Kentucky Operations Brian Harman was one of a number of individuals to speak at the event Monday, which included a ceremonial ribbon cutting to celebrate the latest Windstream expansion.
He noted that the areas covered will receive “symmetrical 1 gig speeds, up and down,” and specific areas will have immediate access as soon as construction in those spots is complete, even before the end of April.
“From 2019 through 2021, Windstream has invested more than $211 million in additional projects across Kentucky,” said Harman. “More than 120,000 locations have access to 1 gig fiber speeds by the end of 2021 in Kentucky. Some strong public-private partnerships are critical to closing the digital divide in rural areas, and would otherwise be too expensive to serve. That’s why Windstream participates at the federal, state and local level to make their fiber broadband the right solution in rural America.”
State Rep. Ken Upchurch, whose territory now includes Burnside after recent redistricting, also spoke Monday, and said that the state legislature has put a lot of money into broadband in recent years trying to help areas like southern Pulaski County.
“We just don’t realize the importance of broadband,” said Upchurch. “When I was in school, I dreamed of having a cell phone. I remember watching ‘Dallas’ and J.R. Ewing talk on his car (phone) and I just thought that was something phenomenal, but now we have these little things (cell phones) that we’re tethered to — you can do stock trades, you can do your banking, your email. Everything is right here in the palm of your hand.”
Upchurch said he thinks the better speeds will help recruit people from out of state to move to Kentucky and the lake area and be able to work from home. Meanwhile, Lonnie Lawson, president and CEO of The Center for Rural Development and a key figure in bringing high-speed internet to the community, noted that it should also help keep the area’s best and brightest from moving away to gain better opportunities for themselves.
Pulaski County Judge-Executive Steve Kelley said that other projects are in the works, and by the end of the year, high-speed internet access may reach as much as 97 percent of Pulaski County.
He said it’s been something the county has been working on for years now to get to this point, and it’s been a goal of his to have faster connectivity in area homes.
“It’s a big day for Pulaski County, a big day for Burnside and the surrounding areas, a big day for Windstream, with the great partnership we’ve got here,” said Kelley. “We’re excited that spring has sprung and the fiber is flowing in Pulaski County.
“Pulaski County and the Lake Cumberland region is growing like never before, and this project to install 35 additional miles of state-of-the-art fiber broadband infrastructure will greatly enhance the quality of life for our residents,” he added.
Donna McClure, representing Sen. Mitch McConnell at the event on Monday, said that as the senator worked on the CARES Act in 2020, he realized the impact of broadband on everyday life and dedicated $100 million to help connect rural areas to high-speed internet. Also included was funding to support distance learning, she said. In 2021, McConnell included another $98 million to implement the Broadband Data Act to create more accurate broadband maps, noted McClure. He also added $7 billion to broadband improvements last December.
Stephanie Bell, Kentucky vice president of government affairs for Windstream, affirmed Kinetic’s commitment to the Bluegrass State.
“Now more than ever, access to dependable, high-speed internet is essential for commerce, education, telehealth, remote work, and overall connectivity,” said Bell. “Kinetic has a strong track record of delivering quality broadband service to communities across Kentucky, and we are very proud to partner with the City of Burnside on this transformative project.”