Municipal Utilities Testify About KentuckyWired Concerns

Cities that provide internet service voiced concern before the Interim Joint Committee on Tourism, Small Business, and Information Technology at a Thursday afternoon meeting. Managers of Bowling Green Municipal Utilities (BGMU) and Murray Electric System (MES) testified about concerns with KentuckyWired competing for customers.

“My ask of you is to direct Kentucky Communications Network Authority (KCNA) and its contractual partner Accelecom, preferably through legislation, to leave our municipal customers alone. Don’t cherry-pick our best customers,” said BGMU General Manager Mark Iverson.

He likened current Accelecom marketing to the commonwealth competing against its own utilities. “On multiple occasions, we were told that the state has no intention to compete for your customers. But that does not appear to be true,” Iverson said. “The competition to city-owned broadband has just been outsourced.”

BGMU, he explained, designed its network to serve commercial, industrial, and health care customers. Iverson called it “strategic” and said the goal was to boost development in Bowling Green. He showed a map of BGMU’s fiber network compared to KentuckyWired, and they followed a nearly identical path toward the city’s commercial corridors and industrial park. “It’s creating a lot of anxiety for city utilities,” Iverson testified.

He explained that he’s not “anti-competition” because there are plenty of companies with which to compete.

Committee cochair Representative Phillip Pratt (R-Georgetown) shared the panel’s concerns. “I think everyone in this room wants to get broadband internet to the unserved and underserved areas of Kentucky,” he said. “The problem is, what we’re seeing is it appears that is not Accelecom’s intent. Their intent is to cherry-pick customers to try to pay for their investment. I hope I’m wrong.”

No officials from KCNA or Accelecom testified at the hearing.