LexGig Rural Area Analysis Update

Chief Information Officer Aldona Valicenti and Chief Innovation Officer Scott Shapiro provided an update on the LexGig project at the September 19, 2017 Environmental Quality & Public Works Committee Meeting (video here).  LexGig is an initiative that will bring Internet data speeds to Lexington at a rate 1,000 megabits per second by deploying fiber optic cables as infrastructure.  Our current average rate is 16.2 megabits per second.  Even though Lexington is the second largest city in Kentucky and home to a research university, we rank 38th out of the 96 Kentucky cities and towns where the Internet is available.  For additional background on the project, please see my previous blog posts here, here, here, and my newsletter here.  Additional information is available on the LFUCG website here.

In 2015, CTC Technology & Energy conducted a gigabit city study within the urban services boundary.  After reviewing that research, Council and other stakeholders were also interested in the possibility of deploying fiber to the rural area. The September presentation served to update Council on that broader scope of analysis, and it summarized findings from the full report provided to Council earlier in the summer.  For your reference and review, those materials are available here.

Some key takeaways included the following:

  • The cost to deploy fiber in the rural area is roughly 9 times the cost of deploying in the denser areas inside the urban services boundary.
  • Providing a fiber optic connection to every neighborhood and business would cost roughly $43 million, a strategy the consultant discouraged.
  • The Federal government offers Connect America funds to assist with fiber optic deployment in rural areas, and while our land does not currently meet the definition, the city believes a waiver is appropriate given that our rural area is not intended for future development.
  • A solution for rural access could include providing a “middle mile” approach, a strategy that resembles the 20th century model of connecting citizens through interstates and highways that interested parties can then further develop into arterial roadways with branches to homes and businesses.

The LexGig project can be a good fit for Lexington.  It takes advantage of our infill and redevelopment policy; having more consumers per mile of fiber allows Lexington to compete in a higher league when attracting investment.  The project can also create a more competitive marketplace for content delivery, and Lexingtonians frustrated by existing service providers can reap the benefits.

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