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Letcher joins with four other counties in broadband project

The Southeastern Kentucky Final Mile (SKY FM) “broadband fiber” planning project will kick off with a meeting at 2 p.m. on June 8 on the campus of Hazard Community and Technical College.

“I believe that broadband is a great equalizer and this planning project permits us to take a giant step forward together for the better good of our citizens,” said Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward.

The project has been awarded a state grant to create an action plan as the first step in expanding highspeed broadband across Clay, Leslie, Perry, Letcher and Knott counties.

“We are thrilled to be one of the first final mile planning projects funded in the state,” said Perry County Judge/Executive Scott Alexander. “We know highspeed fiber networks hold the key to us being able to compete for good-paying jobs and this consortium of counties is committed to working together and with private industry to make that happen.”

The Southeastern Kentucky Final Mile project’s ultimate goal is to enable public-private partnerships that expand high-speed broadband Internet access to homes, schools, hospitals, businesses, public buildings, industrial parks and other critical structures in rural southeastern Kentucky. Participants in the SKY FM project hope this first step of an informed plan will eventually lead to the construction of an extensive fiber network across the five-county area and serve as a working model for use across the Commonwealth and nation.

“This final mile project is very unique even across the nation, as this consortium will be bringing together public entities and private industry to solve this major community and economic development challenge,” said Clay County Judge/ Executive Joe Asher.

Those interested in the project are encouraged to attend the kick-off event at 2 p.m. on June 8 in Room 123 D&E of the First Federal Center of the Hazard Community and Technical College in Hazard.

“We encourage and hope to have broad and diverse involvement in this planning project from many different community groups and business representatives,” said Knott County Judge/Executive Zach Weinberg of Knott County.

Funding assistance is being provided through grants from the Kentucky Communications Network Authority (KCNA), and the SOAR’s Kentucky Appalachian Regional Development Fund.

The SKFM project will use the Commonwealth’s master service contract with Kentucky-based Connected Nation Exchange (CNX) as the lead consultant in creating the action plan for a public-private partnership across the five-county consortium.

“Broadband is an essential 21st century need for the citizens and businesses,” said Leslie Judge/Executive Jimmy Sizemore.

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