Gov. Beshear: Broadband Providers Can Now Submit Proposals to Bring Better Internet to Unserved Kentuckians
Up to $50 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds may be awarded by April 2022
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Aug. 11, 2021) — Today, Gov. Andy Beshear called upon broadband providers to complete their applications and submit proposals that support the state’s expansion of internet access to unserved communities across the commonwealth.
“In today’s technology-dependent society, access to reliable, high-speed internet can no longer be considered a luxury available only to those who can afford it. In fact, broadband is foundational to our future economic growth, particularly in areas of the state previously deemed unprofitable to serve,” Gov. Beshear said. “Over the last 18 months, we have seen just how critical reliable internet access is for all of us to stay informed, safe and connected to work, school, health care, friends and family. And now, we look to our broadband community to tell us how they would use the funds available to support the construction, development or improvement of broadband access across the commonwealth, with our unserved communities receiving first priority.”
Gov. Beshear, through a bipartisan agreement with state legislators, aims to create 14,500 new jobs and help the commonwealth lead in the post-COVID economy through his Better Kentucky Plan. Through the passage of bills at the end of the 2021 legislative session, the state will direct American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) funds to boost the state’s economy by building new schools, delivering clean drinking water and expanding access to broadband.
In support of the Governor’s Better Kentucky Plan, the Finance and Administration Cabinet issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for $50 million in federal ARPA funds allocated to bring internet access to those who need it most through the Kentucky Broadband Deployment Fund.
The RFP will remain open until Oct. 25, 2021. The Governor and the Kentucky General Assembly agreed to allocate $300 million of the State Fiscal Recovery Fund portion of the ARPA money to expanding broadband. The first $50 million of the broadband deployment funds are available to award by April 2022.
On June 24, Gov. Beshear announced the release of a Request for Information (RFI) to solicit from providers ideas, suggestions and comments as the state developed the process for distributing funds appropriated to expand internet access to unserved communities across the commonwealth. More than two dozen interested parties responded to the RFI and that information was used to develop the formal solicitation issued today.
Through this competitive RFP process, the state is soliciting bids from broadband networks owned, operated or affiliated with local governments, nonprofits and cooperatives, as well as private providers with a focus on serving entire communities. Proposals will be accepted until Oct. 25 and will be evaluated based upon the applicants’ ability to meet defined conditions in order to receive funding. The RFP is available on the state’s vendor self-service portal.
Under House Bill 320 and House Bill 382, a bipartisan agreement signed into law by Gov. Beshear, Kentucky’s Broadband Deployment Fund will assist private sector entities and governmental agencies in the cost of constructing the “last mile” of broadband access to unserved and underserved households and businesses across Kentucky.
The fund includes $300 million earmarked to address the connectivity needs of these communities, including $250 million for the construction of broadband infrastructure to connect unserved and underserved areas – no more than $50 million of which may be awarded before April 1, 2022 – and $50 million for economic development opportunities.
Combined with at least 50% required matching federal investments, a minimum of $600 million will support broadband expansion in Kentucky, creating more than 10,000 direct and indirect jobs. Coupled with the recent broadband speed test, access mapping and the KentuckyWired project, the commonwealth has the potential to move to the forefront of broadband expansion nationwide.
In addition to the Broadband Deployment Fund, the Better Kentucky Plan will include: $250 million to improve water infrastructure across the state, creating approximately 3,800 jobs; $127 million for local school districts to fund construction and renovation projects, which – along with other Better Kentucky Plan investments in education – could create up to 1,000 jobs; and more.
Submitting a Response to the RFP
Until 3:30 p.m. EDT on Oct. 25, 2021, the RFP may be found on the state’s vendor self-service portal.
Providers that have a User ID and password should log on with those credentials. If a provider is not registered to do business with the Commonwealth, they can click on “Guest Access” on the upper left side of the screen.
From there, interested parties should click on the Solicitations tab to see a list of business opportunities available and their status. Use the keyword search field at the top, middle of the page and search by keyword “broadband” or the RFP number “758 2200000038-2021.” By clicking on the Details box and then on the Attachments tab, a provider will be able to access the links to download the solicitation and all of the attachments associated with it.
For assistance with the e-procurement site, contact the Customer Resource Center at Finance.CRCGroup@ky.gov or phone at 502-564-9641 or toll-free 877-973-HELP (4357). The Help Desk is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. EDT.