Faster, More Reliable Internet May Be Coming To Rural Fayette County

As installation of a fiber-optic network inside Lexington’s city limits gets underway, there may be hope for better internet access on the horizon for rural Fayette County as well. In today’s environment, access to high-speed, reliable internet is critical to education, business, and daily life. The internet has become as important as any other kind of infrastructure or utility.

Recognizing this fact, Mayor Gray announced plans to work with private internet providers to build a fiber-optic network throughout Lexington. The original plans did not include rural Fayette County or any area outside of the Urban Services Boundary. Fayette Alliance worked with the city to conduct a feasibility study to determine strategies and cost estimates to meet the internet needs of our rural areas. This important study documented the needs, challenges, and opportunities of providing high-speed internet access to our rural areas.

Residents and businesses in rural Fayette County are vital to the economic health of Lexington—responsible for jobs, key to tourism, and a significant part of our tax base. Our agricultural industries generate $2.3 billion in annual economic activity and support one out of every twelve jobs in Fayette County alone. Our world-class, 21st century agricultural economy of horses, cattle, crops, and local food has similar internet needs as their urban
counterparts.

Additionally, families residing in rural areas depend on internet services in exactly the same way as families inside the city limits—from homework and educational tools for students, to online banking, and finding a job or doctor. Reliable internet access is directly tied to quality of life and the ability to participate in our society.

The need is clear. The challenge is how to provide access in an affordable way. The feasibility study concluded that building a fiber-optic network in our rural area is simply cost prohibitive. However, there may be other options to increase speed and reliability that are more affordable.

One such option is currently being explored. Charter Communications is conducting a pilot study of “fixed wireless broadband” in rural Fayette County. This wireless technology may expand speeds and reliability in rural areas. The pilot is scheduled to run until September of this year. We look forward to reporting the results as soon as they are available.

We thank the Mayor and Council for being committed to finding a solution to meet the internet needs of all our citizens and businesses. Stay tuned!