Kentucky taxpayers will pay $78,000 so officials in Prestsonsburg can study whether government should use bonds to pay for broadband internet, even though private providers already offer the service.
Prestonsburg Mayor Les Stapleton is aware, but he’s pressing on.
“We have broadband in the area through different entities, yes, but for the individual it’s not that affordable,” Stapleton said.
Tennessee Watchdog asked Stapleton if he knew how much private providers charge Prestonsburg residents.
Stapleton said he didn’t.
Officials with Suddenlink said they offer broadband in the city at prices ranging from $39 to $79 a month.
An unidentified spokesperson for Big Sandy Broadband said that company charges between $52.95 to $109.95 a month for the service, but only in certain areas of Prestonsburg.
Stapleton said coal once played a major role in Prestonsburg’s economy, but it’s “on the decline.”
“Our goal is just to get technology in the area,” Stapleton said.
“It will help education, and, if we can get businesses to the area, it will help with economic development.”
Stapleton said the city got the $78,000 for the study from an organization called Shaping Our Appalachian Region, a network of 54 Kentucky counties, according to its website.
Kevin Loux, SOAR spokesman, said the money was passed down from the Kentucky Department of Local Government, which operates under Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.
The study, Loux said, will take about three months.
Stapleton said if city officials bring broadband to the city using public money it would involve some type of relationship with KentuckyWired, though he failed to offer specifics.
As reported, KentuckyWired is a government-run broadband service costing federal taxpayers $20 million and state taxpayers $30 million.
On top of that, $300 million in bond money— $230 million in tax-exempt senior revenue bonds and $57 million of taxable senior revenue bonds — will pay for the rest of KentuckyWired, according to Moody’s.
The Australian-based Macquarie Group will design, develop and operate KentuckyWired for 30 years. The commonwealth will own the network and will provide broadband to at least 1,100 government facilities.
State officials contend KentuckyWired won’t directly compete with private providers for broadband customers.
But Kentucky Telecom Association President Tyler Campbell said last year that, in some areas of the state, “this is just a pure duplication of the excess fiber capacity that we already have.”
Prestonsburg has a population of about 3,000, according to the most recent U.S. Census.
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