FRANKFORT — A bill to limit the state’s partner in the KentuckyWired project from competing with private broadband providers in already-served areas advanced through a House committee Thursday with an 11-4 vote.
The 3,000 miles of fiber-optic cables making up the KentuckyWired project were designed to provide internet service to government sites across the state, while allowing private broadband providers to buy spare capacity from the network and build out services directly to residential and commercial customers.
Sponsored by Rep. Phillip Pratt, R-Georgetown, House Bill 332 stemmed from the concern of broadband providers that OpenFiber Kentucky — the company of state partner Macquarie Capital, an Australian investment bank — would also be building out the “last mile” of the network directly to customers that already have private internet services.
While the state receives a share of OpenFiber revenue to pay off the costs of the KentuckyWired project, these private broadband companies balked at the prospect of a subsidized competitor undercutting their business and “cherry-picking” their large clients such as hospitals and business parks.
Under the bill, the state partner would be allowed only to build out the network in “unserved areas” without access to broadband services.
Pratt told legislators in the House Small Business and Information Technology Committee on Thursday his bill “is not to kill KentuckyWired,” but to protect private companies from unfair competition that would discourage their investment in rural areas.