American Rescue Plan grant to fund fiber optic internet in Lyon County | News

A solution to Lyon County getting dependable internet service appears to be near. The fiscal court will vote Thursday on a proposal/proposals to provide the service via a fiber optic network.

Two months ago Lyon County received more than $1.5 million from the nearly $2 trillion American Rescue Plan Act passed in March.

“It is the fiscal court’s intent to spend all of it on fiber internet promotion,” said Judge-Executive Wade White.

White said he anticipates Lyon County will receive more money from the federal infrastructure bill now working its way through Congress.

“For the first time ever there are real dollars available on the state and federal levels, and it is our intent to help internet companies serve as many (families) as possible with the ARPA money and continue applying for more grants over the coming year,” he said. “These additional grants will help the companies build out and continue so we can serve as much of the county as possible at the fastest timeline possible.”

Fiber optic lines are the gold standard in internet service. Fiber optic internet sends data faster than basic cable. It is delivered on a dedicated line, which facilitates more consistent speed than cable. Unlike copper cable, fiber optic cable uses light to transmit data instead of electricity. Fiber internet cables are made of glass, and service is less likely to go down in a power outage because it is not dependent on electricity, according to an internet posting.

The deadline for proposals was Aug. 30. The court’s internet team made up of White, County Attorney Lee Wilson and Third District Magistrate Jeff Fowler have reviewed the proposals, which outlined in detail the fiber work required to best serve the county’s needs.

The team received three bids: Conexon representing Kenergy Corp., Fastnet, and Pennyrile Rural Electric.

“We fully expect the companies to need financial help in running fiber and we are willing to use the ARPA money to make this happen,” White said.

Thursday the team will recommend a course of action to the full court.

“The court will then vote up or down to give us the authority to sign contracts with one or more companies willing to run fiber and how much the court will invest in each,” White said. On (Friday) I plan to make a video for Facebook to explain what will be happening over the next few months for fiber installation in the county.”

Fastnet provides cable internet service in Lyon County now.

“Most of their work has been direct line-of-sight wireless, so they could not cover everyone due to the terrain,” White said.

Fastnet recently installed fiber to Lisanby Road, Elkhorn Tavern Road and a couple other smaller roads without the help of grants.

“Fiber optic is the most reliable and fastest service available,” White said. “It is imperative that we solve the internet problem in Lyon County as soon as possible and this begins that process on a large scale. I have been working on ways to solve the internet problem since I came into office in 2011. It has been one of the few problems I have struggled to solve. We were able to bring Fastnet into the county in 2012 with a $250,000 grant to get them started. But fiber has been our ultimate goal to make sure (citizens) living on our small rural roads have the best service possible.”

Fowler agreed. And he is especially concerned about the need for reliable internet in rural areas. He’s optimistic regarding what the fiscal court can do with the grant money.

“I feel really good about it,” Fowler said. “It’s something that needs to be done in our county. It affects a lot of people when we don’t have the internet we need. So I think it’s going to be really good for our county especially in our rural areas. … Hopefully we’ll get this going for everybody and maybe it won’t be too long before we can get the internet to some of these people who are pretty needy of it. … This pandemic hitting has put us in a bad spot for some of these people in the rural areas — not having internet for their kids” who are learning remotely.

Fowler also noted the lack of internet service affects the housing market and the county’s ability to grow.

“A lot of people nowadays are working from home,” he said. “… Nobody is going to buy a home if they can’t work out of their home.”

Both the judge and Fowler expressed optimism the dawn of reliable internet service in Lyon County is at hand.

“Now, for the first time since 2011, I believe the goal of Lyon County having real internet solutions is here,” White said. “I’m so excited about what is coming. Finally we don’t have to look in the future and hope for a solution. I think we are on the road to solving the internet problem and this makes me happy, and it’s a big deal for us all.”

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