Kentucky.gov: - Governor Beshear, Congressman Hal Rogers Launch Statewide Broadband Initiative, Beginning in Eastern Kentucky: The first stage of the project is to build the main broadband fiber lines across the state. These major fiber lines are called the “middle mile.” The “open access” network will allow the private sector to use the fiber to deliver services into communities. Once complete, other Internet service provider companies, cities, partnerships, or other groups may then tap into those “middle mile” lines to complete the “last mile” – the lines that run to individual homes or businesses.
This last sentence is key and delineates between what's actually planned to be built and what's theoretically hoped to be. Without those last mile ISPs, Kentucky will end up with an incomplete network, condemning many of its residents to continued subpar Internet service. It would be like building an expressway and having gravel or dirt roads at the exits and on ramps. As the news release from Gov. Beshear's office notes, Kentucky rates poorly compared to other states on Internet access. That sad statistic is unlikely to improve without a solid plan to build fiber to the premise infrastructure to serve the last mile.
Historically, middle mile projects like this one do a good job getting anchor institutions like schools, libraries and government offices connected. But that doesn't automatically mean nearby homes and small businesses will get connections and can even hinder their getting service as network expert Andrew Cohill has noted since the network operators tend to concentrate their efforts on serving anchor institutions and figure someone else can solve the last mile problem. That someone else has typically proven to be nonexistent. It's essentially a funding problem since there tends to be insufficient and/or uncertain future revenues to attract those interested in investing in the needed infrastructure to bridge the last mile to homes and small businesses.
In Utah, the private funding partner of the Kentucky initiative, Macquarie Capital Group, is working with the Utah Open Telecommunications Infrastructure Agency (UTOPIA) on an open access fiber to the premise project serving 11 cities. That project solves the last mile funding problem by treating the fiber to the premise infrastructure as public works, funded in part by fees assessed on property owners. Which makes sense since these properties collectively benefit by being able to access the various economic, educational, health care and other services made possible with fiber connections. Kentucky would be wise to draw upon the Macquarie/UTOPIA partnership to plan and construct a complete fiber telecommunications network that will serve all its residents in the 21st century.