Cooperative Partnership Brings Fiber to Pilot Area in Warren County, Kentucky

A collaboration between cooperatives is bringing fiber connectivity to hundreds of unserved homes in southern Kentucky. Warren Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation (WRECC) and North Central Telephone Cooperative (NCTC) will be working together to connect 800 homes in the endeavor, which will also be used to gauge the feasibility of further buildout in the region down the road.

The project is situated in the southern part of Warren County, along U.S. Route 231 and just south of the city of Bowling Green near the unincorporated community of Alvaton. It began with a franchise agreement in 2017 between WRECC and NCTC, with KentuckyWired paying NCTC to build north into Warren County where the telephone cooperative’s fiber subsidiary could partner with WRECC to expand inside a pilot service area. The electric cooperative will supply backbone fiber and lateral lines via its existing assets, with NCTC funding the remainder of the build that will bring residents online.

A Welcome Venture

More than 60,000 people live in the county outside of the city limits of Bowling Green, and many of them — especially in the southern portion— have limited or no connectivity options. WRECC and NCTC make a natural pairing, with the latter (founded in 1938) serving power to more than 67,000 members today (about half of them in Warren County). NCTC (founded 1953) serves 20,500 members mostly in Tennessee.

WRECC President and CEO Dewayne McDonald said of the project

Our board of directors has challenged us to find a way to bring high-speed Internet [access] to our members. After extensive research, we decided that partnering with others was the best route.

Construction started end of 2019, with the build split into 7 areas and originally anticipated to be complete in the summer 2020. By June the partnership had completed construction through areas 1-4, with drops in areas 1-3 nearly done by the end of the month. By August, crews were finished with areas 5 and 6 as well, with drops beginning to be installed by the second week of the month. As of writing, it appears construction remains ongoing in Area 7 (see map).

Bowling Green Daily News reported in February that those in the region were excited and enthusiastic, with “300 residents from an area with fewer than 800 addresses show[ing] up for an informational meeting at Phil Moore Park. Nearly 150 of them signed up for NCTC’s broadband Internet service on the spot. Many more have signed up online.” As it stands, the project currently enjoys a 50% take rate, which both speaks to the need in the area and the quality and affordability of the service. 

NCTC offers three tiers at the moment, all of which are symmetrical: 100 Mbps (Megabits per second) for $80/month, 300 Mbps for $90/month, and gigabit for $100/month. 

Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon also highlighted the importance of the pilot

Broadband access is important to everyone. It’s used for business and for everyday life. People call me just about every day saying they’re living in the dark ages because they don’t have high-speed Internet [access].

This is not the first foray into cooperative builds by WRECC. In the fall of 2019 it entered into a partnership to lease dark fiber to the city of Franklin's electric plant to serve 350 homes in Simpson County.

For more coverage of Kentucky and the KentuckyWired project, see previous stories in our archive.