Caldwell Fiscal Court Moves Forward On Rural Internet Projects

Caldwell County Fiscal Court magistrates authorized Judge-executive Larry Curling to move forward with contract negotiations with Pennyrile Rural Electric and Kenergy for partnerships for the companies to build and provide rural fiber Internet services.

During Tuesday morning’s meeting, Judge Curling said they received proposals from the two utility providers after the county requested companies to develop Internet service in the rural areas of Caldwell County. He added this is the one way the county can use its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Relief funding, and noted House Bill 320 also provides $250 million to help get Internet service out into the county.

Curling said HB 320 also allows co-op companies to get involved with providing Internet service, which he added is a game-changer for the county.

click to download audioLake Barkley Economic Development Executive Director Amanda Davenport, who has been helping the county with the proposals, said in the proposal the county was divided into three sections. She noted that Pennyrile Rural Electric, in partnership with Hopkinsville Electric Service, would provide service in the southern portion of Caldwell County. She added Pennyrile Rural Electric already has a footprint in this area of the county and the company is in the process of building out a fiber backbone to serve its existing customers in Christian, Trigg and Todd counties, which will also expand into Caldwell.

Lake Barkley Economic Development Executive Director Amanda Davenport

According to Davenport, the electric company’s proposal is asking for a dollar-for-dollar match from the county to build the backbone as well as looking for other grant funding avenues.

click to download audioShe recommended the county enter into a contract negotiation with Pennyrile Rural Electric to determine how much funding the county can put toward the project as well as work with them on the phased development.

Davenport said the county also received a proposal from Connexon — the partner for Kenergy in building out its Internet network.

click to download audioShe added it doesn’t make sense for Connexon to build out in the southern portion of the county because Pennyrile Rural Electric already has a footprint in that area. Davenport said it makes more sense for Connexon to focus on the northern portion of Caldwell County and recommended county officials discuss those details with Kenergy.

click to download audioDavenport also stated both of these companies have a good track record and both of these projects will help the county move forward with the fiber build-out.

According to Davenport, it would take Pennyrile Rural Electric approximately one year to build out and own the fiber line and telephone poles in southern Caldwell County with Hopkinsville Electric to provide the Internet service and customer service. She noted with the Connexon project, Kenergy will own the poles and the infrastructure and Connexon will be the service provider.

Magistrates unanimously approved moving forward with the two partnerships and appointing a committee for discussions and contract negotiations to provide rural fiber Internet.