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Magistrates hear plan to expand broadband to underserved areas of county

Magistrates Keith Metcalfe, right, and Gary Coulter. Gazette file photo.

By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021 — Residents in parts of rural Nelson County will get access to broadband internet access sooner than later, thanks to a project being organized by Charter/Spectrum Communications.

Approximately 2,600 households in rural areas of Nelson County will be served  by a project Charter expects to start construction in 2022. The project will extend high-speed internet via fiber optic lines to several currently underserved areas of the county.

The areas to be served include: an area west of Bardstown from the Bellwood Road area west to the county line and to the north and south of the Bluegrass Parkway; the Deatsville area; and smaller areas surrounding Bardstown.

The project is being funded partly by a $3.79 million federal grant. Charter representative Jason Keller told Nelson Fiscal Court this morning that the company expects to match the federal dollars with its own capital investment in the project.    

Before the project can begin, the Public Service Commission must first approve Charter’s status as an eligible telecommunication carrier (ETC), which is needed before the company can negotiate with utility companies for the use of their utility poles.

The company is also asking the PSC to have utilities share the cost of utility poles that need to be replaced due to the addition of Charter’s lines. Keller said that if a utility pole is near the end of its service life, Charter shouldn’t be forced to pay the entire cost of its replacement, which he said will be one of the project’s major costs.

Salt River Electric has already promised it cooperation with the project, Judge Executive Dean Watts told the magistrates.

“This is going to require a real collaborative approach, Keller said. “Its going to require a lot of parties to come together to deploy the service quickly.”

There will be some service overlap in areas currently served by the City of Bardstown’s cable TV and internet service and other providers, he said. Charter will offer all of its telecommunications services to the expansion area, which will includes landline voice, cable TV and mobile phone service.

Charter was awarded the ability to serve the identified areas as part of an FCC auction of census blocks the FCC says is underserved by broadband internet. The FCC data says 4,643 homes in the county do not have access to broadband service. The Charter project will reduce that number by more than half.

Charter’s presentation was well-received by the magistrates, who welcomed the expansion of broadband into underserved areas of the county as a positive move.

Keller said the company  hopes to receive the needed ETC status from the state PSC by June 2021. Actual construction will start in 2022, though he said they hope to begin the project before next year.

COVID VACCINATIONS. Watts told the court that the county has designated the Nelson County Fairgrounds as the location for COVID-19 vaccine distribution — provided sufficient vaccine becomes available for the county health department to schedule vaccinations.

Right now, vaccine is in short supply, and much of the supply is going to the regional vaccine sites in Lexington, Danville and Paducah, with more expected to come online as more vaccine becomes available.

To make sure that the vaccine is made available to all seniors, Watts said the health department is considering adding additional employees to go to the senior citizens center to help seniors who don’t have internet or face technical challenges to get signed up for the vaccine.

BULKY ITEM PICKUP. The first phase of the county’s bulky item pickup will begin Monday, Feb. 22nd. The first area will be all of the county west of US31E, Louisville Road, and north of the Bluegrass Parkway between Bardstown and the Hardin-Nelson County lines.

In other business,, Nelson Fiscal Court:

— approved the appointment of Bobby Greenwell to the North Nelson Water District board.

– Watts said the second reading of the 2021 budget amendment will take place at the court’s Feb. 16th meeting.

— approved without comment the 2021 elected officials salary increase of 1.4 percent.

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