WK&T’s fiber project will be complete by the end of June
By Patrick Smith
When West Kentucky Rural Telephone Cooperative started in 1951, locals banded together to bring telephone service to rural communities that were not profitable enough for large corporations trying to make big earnings for stockholders. Passionate locals went door to door, explaining the benefits of a telephone network and recruiting new members.
One after another, poles were erected and telephone lines were strung throughout the community. Soon, more and more members joined, and over the course of time, a vast telecommunications network was built.
But as time goes on, technology and consumer demands change.
WK&T saw the future potential of bringing fiber to the area, and in 2009, the cooperative was awarded a $123.8 million grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. While the new network would transform the community, it also meant the old network, which had previously taken decades to create, would have to be completely rebuilt in just six short years.
WK&T accepted the challenge.
“It’s been a massive undertaking to build the stimulus portion of the new broadband network in such a short amount of time,” says Trevor Bonnstetter, WK&T CEO. “But it’s been incredibly fulfilling to see the changes that broadband has already created for our community.”
The new network is being constructed using fiber optic technology. It works by sending pulses of light along strands of glass the thickness of a human hair. The network is delivering blazing-fast Internet speeds throughout the area, in addition to crystal-clear television and phone service.
In June, when WK&T will complete the project, each customer’s service will be operating on fiber, allowing the cooperative to discontinue its maintenance of the copper system.
Many companies integrate fiber as part of their network. Some use it alongside copper, and others use one strand for multiple members who share the bandwidth.
WK&T’s fiber-to-the-home network is different, giving members a true fiber connection from the switch at the central office all the way to a member’s home or business.
And, there’s no sharing. Each home or business has its own dedicated line of fiber so they can experience all the connected world has to offer — now, and years into the future.
“I feel like fiber gives WK&T members a product that is truly future-proof,” says Stacey Riley, operations manager for WK&T. “There’s been a lot of work involved in this project by our employees and the community. It’s a big accomplishment for us to have the new network built in just a few years.”
Since the work began, thousands of local businesses and residents have seen the impact of fiber — a technology that’s not yet available in many larger cities like Nashville and St. Louis.
The efforts of the cooperative’s first patrons have paid off time and again. Over the past 64 years, people have depended on WK&T to bring first-class service to the area. WK&T’s services have helped recruit businesses, big and small, and the cooperative has helped locals live and work in their hometown. Today, broadband is continuing the tradition and helping to bring new innovations to the area.
“The infrastructure WK&T is building will continue to change the whole community,” says Bonnstetter. “It’s exciting to think about how fiber will change these communities and the advancements we’ll see in 10 or 15 years.”