The grant means 7,000 households in the area will have improved internet access and provide broadband level access to 2,000 households that previously did not have it. Awarded by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), the grant allows 40 miles worth of fiberoptic cabling to be laid out through Harlan County.
“We have a lot of people in Harlan County that have gone to work from home,” he said. “Over 300 teleworks jobs have been created over the last several years. We have about 50 or so digital Career Now hub employees that need the ability to work from home.”
Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley said it was a necessary win for the community.
Mosley said better internet is as essential as water and electricity.
“No matter where you live in this county, we want you to have acceptable internet speeds to where you can work or learn from home or see your doctor from home if you need to,” he said.
Tourism officials said it will bring in several new opportunities for the area.
“I think a limiting factor of that has been internet access and I think with this project, expanding internet access, making it more reliable, faster speeds, I think we’ll see an influx of people coming to Harlan,” One Harlan County Executive Director Cole Raines said.
“Right now, we’re waiting on a grant agreement and when we get that, we’ll get that approved and executed, and then we’ll put out that request for proposals, and once we accept the proposal then someone will move forward and start building the fiber,” he said.
Mosley said they hope to take care of all the bus work in the coming months to get Eastern Kentuckians the access they need.
Raines said it will also allow businesses and schools to work more efficiently.
“The past two years have really highlighted how critical internet is,” he said. “Not only for businesses who are trying to do E-commerce but also students who are learning from online school. So, I think this is a huge win for Harlan County”
Mosley said this grant is only the beginning.
“We’re going to be going after more funding as well to enhance speeds in other areas,” he said. “This is just the first step to continue to invest in the people of Harlan County and I’m thankful to the ARC, that they selected us for this grant.”
Mosley said that victory was made possible through the community.
“Had it not been for the people of Harlan County that have been a part of this process, we probably would not have gotten funded because we wouldn’t have had that data to make our case,” he said. “So, a big thank you to the people of Harlan County for taking the time to understand why that speed test was important.”
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This award is part of a more than $45 million package supporting 57 projects across 184 coal-impacted counties through ARC’s POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative.
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