Paducah Power System has agreed to extend fiber optic cable in three west Kentucky areas, in conjunction with the state-run project KentuckyWired, in return for improved fiber connectivity to Louisville.

The PPS board approved the project in a resolution Monday which includes the city of Paducah and the electric utilities in Murray and Mayfield as participants.

KentuckyWired is designed to provide high-speed, high-capacity fiber optic cable in every county in the commonwealth, connecting government offices, universities, community colleges, state police posts, state parks and other government institutions to the internet. Brent Shelton, PPS manager of telecommunications, outlined the project and its benefits to the board.

"KentuckyWired approached me a couple of years ago," he said.

"They have about 34 sites in our area that they needed connected with fiber," Shelton said. "The governor has asked them to try to work with local fiber entities like ourselves rather than overbuild their system.

"We already serve 95 percent of the sites they want to connect to, so there's really nothing we have to do but splice in a few more fiber. There's three sections that we have to build where we don't currently have fiber: Ballard County High School, Carlisle County High School and Kentucky Dam Marina," he said.

PPS will use a contractor to construct the additional fiber connectivity. KentuckyWired is responsible for 100 percent of the cost, Shelton said, which he estimated would be approximately $800,000.

The key part of the agreement, according to Shelton, "is just a swap. In exchange for connecting the sites they want in Graves, Calloway and McCracken counties, they're going to give us fiber connectivity in to Louisville."

Louisville is a Tier 1 internet service provider. Currently, Paducah Power's Tier 1 ISP is located in Nashville, according to Shelton.

"When you reach a certain level of connectivity, you're called a Tier 1, which is a top level internet provider," he said. "We're looking for some redundancies (for Tier 1), just like with power.

"We don't want to be like some others where one cut (interruption in service) takes us out."

"The way the agreement is worded, there is essentially zero liability (for Paducah Power)," he said.

A number of contingencies are built into the agreement, including that if fiber access is not provided to PPS by Dec. 1, 2020, the utility can effectively terminate the agreement and keep what money has been paid, according to Shelton.

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