Working to bring broadband

Trevor Bonnstetter (left), CEO of West Kentucky and Tennessee Telecommunications Cooperative, explains a coverage map of Henry County during a work session of the Henry County Commission Tuesday at the Henry County 911 administrative office. Henry County Mayor Brent Greer listens.

It’s too soon to tell, but a plan outlined during a work session of the Henry County Commission Tuesday may one day bring broadband access to every home in Henry County.

The commission was briefed on a plan for the county to work with West Kentucky and Tennessee (WK&T) Telecommunications Cooperative during the discussion at the Henry County 911 administrative office.

No action was taken, but resolutions from the session will be discussed at Monday’s commission meeting.

Trevor Bonnstetter, CEO of WK&T, said the project would involve an equal partnership between the county and the communications cooperative.

He said the cooperative’s management team believes “... that if the commission would vote to partner with us to help pay for the broadband to be built throughout the areas outside of Paris that we don’t already serve that our board would spend half the money to do it, too.”

The first phase would involve the completion of a $40,000 engineering study, with the costs split equally between the county and WK&T.

Bonnstetter said the study was already largely completed, because of the tight grant window the project faced.

Based on that study, the cost would be $25.9 million to serve the rest of the area outside the city limits of Paris not currently receiving internet — about 7,500 homes.

The first phase of the project would involve spending about $8 million of the $25.9 million needed.

Of that, $3 million would be provided by Henry County and $3 million by WK&T, with the remaining $2 million from a state Department of Economic and Community Development grant.

That phase would provide 25/3 internet service — 25 megabits per second of download speed and 3 mbps of upload speed.

The deadline to pursue those funds would be Oct. 8, Bonnstetter said.

After that, the cooperative would seek a contract with the county to commit to extend service to the entire county.

Henry County Mayor Brent Greer said the initial financial commitment would be about $60,000, including the county’s half of the study and a $30,000 commitment for the first grant — which the county had at its disposal.

Greer and others said that virtual schooling, job recruitment and other needs make the project an imperative one for the county.

“Ultimately, it’s going to cost our county money to do that for our citizens, and we’ve got to figure out a way for us to pay the big bucks.” Greer said.

Rick Dulaney of Nashville, of the investment bank Raymond James, spoke to the commission about possible funding options for the remainder of the project.

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