Urgent letters of support needed for internet plan
By Dave Taylor
The future of Kenect, the for-profit subsidiary of Kenergy Corp that is hoping to provide internet to 14 counties, is currently up for debate in front of the Public Service Commission, the ruling body that regulates utilities like Kenergy, and the company is asking the public to send letters of support to persuade the commission to allow the company to exist.
Since Kenergy is a public nonprofit co-op specifically formed to provide electric service to its customers, who are also member-owners, the PSC must vote to approve a waiver to allow Kenergy to operate Kenect as a separate entity in the business of providing internet, and right now the commission is taking public feedback on the idea.
“Those letters are so important,” said Kenergy spokesperson Leslie Barr. “We can say we’re asking for this waiver from the PSC because we think our members need high speed internet… However, hearing from our members directly saying that, carries so much weight.”
The public can send a written letter or an email to the commission stating support for Kenect, and Barr said the more letters they can get the better. Kenergy has even supplied a form letter on its website.
“The volume of letters that are coming in in support, from what I understand, is the most important,” she said. “When you get an overwhelming amount of positive letters I think that really makes a statement.”
Convincing stories or a persuasive argument is good, but not required, she said.
“If someone wants to put exactly why they want it, their personal story, of course we want that,” she said. “If they don’t know what they want to say, they just know they want it, they can copy and paste it”
Kenergy has asked for support from organizations and governments in the 14 counties it services and has gotten almost unanimous support.
“So we asked all 14 judge-executives if they would support it and 13 of the 14 signed the letter,” she said.
The lone holdout was Daviess County judge-executive Al Mattingly, who wanted more answers before he’d back the plan. Mattingly though, leads a county with comparatively good internet coverage, so Kenect failing wouldn’t be as damaging to his constituents.
“It’s a huge need in our communities,” said Barr, who herself doesn’t even have internet at her rural home.
Others she knows live in neighborhoods where the speeds drop off when everyone logs on.
“You can say you have internet but if it’s not high speed and reliable then what’s the point?” she said.
When other internet providers have been asked about providing broadband in Hancock County they usually point out the major obstacle of finding a place to run something like fiber optic lines, which would likely have to be run on power poles owned by Kenergy. Each pole a line is attached to would be an individual lease. With Kenergy providing internet through Kenect, it will overcome that initial hurdle.
“It is an advantage that we already have the infrastructure in place,” she said. “It does cut down on the cost, we already know the area.”
One question that many ask about Kenect is whether or not it will be providing internet to everyone or just specific areas.
“The whole point of it would be to make sure that we would have the opportunity to provide it to every single member in our service territory,” Barr said. “It wouldn’t be we select certain areas, or it wouldn’t be that we only serve so many counties. The whole point would be to make it available to every Kenergy member.”
Other details aren’t allowed to be made public right now, she said, which includes pricing, speeds, and whether it’ll all come through fiber or other means.
“There’s so much that we want to say and we want to try and explain,” she said, “but our hands are tied because if we say anything about the design or any bidding strategies or anything, the FTC could impose some serious, serious fines and potentially block us from participating.”
For now, Kenect just needs vocal support, she said.
“The date that we kind of push people to send (letters) by is the end of this week, but they can still continue to send in emails, send in letters, through the end of the month,” she said. “We’re hoping that the PSC will give us a decision sometime in early October.”
If you would like to send a letter of support for Kenergy to provide broadband services, please contact the Kentucky Public Service Commission and reference Case No. 2020-00215 in the subject line of your email to: [email protected] or mail your letter to:
Kentucky Public Service Commission, 211 Sower Boulevard, Frankfort, KY 40602
For more information about Kenergy, please visit www.kenergycorp.com or call 800.844.4832.