Blazing New Trails with Broadband in Western Kentucky
Conexon Connect and Kenergy enable customers to access Kentucky’s first electric cooperative broadband network
Electric cooperative Kenergy is no stranger to pioneering new frontiers in utility innovations in Kentucky.
Established in 1999 through the consolidation of Henderson-Union Electric Cooperative – the first regulated electric cooperative in the state to sell electricity to a member – and Green River Electric, Kenergy is now making a name for itself as the first electric cooperative in the state to deploy and deliver a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network for members. Kenergy, which recently connected its first member to multi-gigabit-capable internet, is Kentucky’s first and only Conexon Connect network partner.
Kenergy joined the broadband movement in 2019 to meet the critical need of high-speed internet for its rural members spanning 14 counties across western Kentucky. Tim Lindahl, Kenergy President and CEO, credits the co-op’s commitment to community success as the primary driving force behind the desire to offer broadband services. Community fuels his passion for merging rural energy access and internet connectivity due to the transformative possibilities such as economic diversification and the retention and attraction of a diverse workforce resulting from this increasingly essential service.
“The communities that don’t have a robust communication network that includes broadband are really going to struggle with economic development and maintaining a population in the future,” Lindahl said. “So, it’s our goal as Kenergy and our goal as the utility industry to see the communities and members we serve survive and thrive.”
The notion of a broadband project arose in 2018 when Hancock County reached out to Kenergy about conducting a feasibility study to determine the viability of offering broadband. Kenergy enlisted the services of Conexon to carry out the study in 2019, marking the official start of the partnership. As the self-proclaimed “guinea pigs” of the state, there was a lack of co-op collaboration to assist the Kenergy team throughout the decision-making process, but Kenergy, and Lindahl specifically, felt turning to Conexon for the implementation of its FTTH project was the right move.
“As utilities go through this, and we all go through this in a similar fashion, you make the determination to hire the experts to do it yourself or find the experts to do it on your behalf,” Lindahl said. “In this case, where Kenergy is at, it was a good choice to pick Conexon to come in and do this and do it much quicker.”
What started as the first electric cooperative in Kentucky to deliver FTTH now holds the distinction of being one of the fastest FTTH network builds in the country. The estimated $150 million project is expected to be completed within three years. Together, Kenergy and Conexon Connect will launch and deploy a nearly 7,200-mile FTTH network. The Connect, powered by Kenergy, fiber network will deliver high-speed internet access to approximately 59,000 homes and businesses across portions of Breckinridge, Caldwell, Crittenden, Daviess, Hancock, Henderson, Hopkins, Livingston, Lyon, McLean, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Union, and Webster counties.
Paving the way for broadband in the state of Kentucky required navigating a complex regulatory landscape. Kenergy encountered various challenges including the need to change laws to enable the project's initiation. Despite these hurdles, the cooperative remained committed to its principle of fulfilling the community’s needs, while also recognizing the benefits of fiber in enhancing their overall business operations.
Today, the Kenergy team continues to connect more members to high-speed internet and eagerly awaits the community changes that will contribute to the growth, sustainability, and quality of life for its members through broadband services.
“Having communication in every home is going to be key for us as a utility in order to be able to adapt to the changing needs on the energy landscape,” Lindahl said. “We will have significant opportunity to change how we have historically provided energy services to our members by having this foundational communication everywhere.”