HCTC and KCTCS to benefit from Kentucky Wired

Paul CzarapataPaul Czarapata, Vice President of Technology Solutions, Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS).

Hazard Community and Technical College and other KCTCS students will benefit greatly from Kentucky Wired, the new program to expand broadband access and speed throughout the state, noted Paul Czarapata, Vice President of Technology Solutions, Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS). Higher access speeds to remote learning resources, ability to stream educational video seamlessly in ultra-HD (4k) resolution, and having a student base with adequate access to these resources from home will be a part of the improvement, Czarapata said. The biggest improvement for students will be the eventual availability of affordable broadband from home. Right now only 23 percent of the rural population has access to broadband and only 30 percent of those that have access to it adopt it. This is most likely due to prohibitive costs, noted Czarapata.

At the announcement on Aug. 31 about the new initiative, the crowd was told Kentucky Wired will level the playing field. When a company is evaluating locations for a new site they tend to look at the big three a hard working affordable/skilled labor force, inexpensive utilities, and access to all necessary communications. Right now broadband is a black hole in Eastern Kentucky and this will certainly level the playing field to compete with other states, Czarapata said.

Donna Roark, HCTC s Chief Information Officer, oversees Technology Solutions. Her department is praised by the system office for technological advances in the past. We have a great team that will embrace this project because we understand how very important this is to the area, she said. HCTC along with all KCTCS colleges will house a fiber hub site on their property to assist in providing high speed connections to the colleges surrounding communities, noted Roark.

As a result of the announcement by Gov. Steve Beshear and Congressman Harold Rogers, HCTC and other KCTCS colleges will be preparing the system infrastructure to be ready for fiber optics, strategically plan to leverage this new resource, and train college technology staffs for these new technologies.

Czarapata was involved in this project since its early stages. KCTCS s Kenny Burdine and the now retired KCTCS employee, Rick Chlopan, both members of Technology Solutions team, played key roles in assisting the Center for Rural Development (CRD) in Somerset during the initial planning phase. As word about this project spread the Governor saw the value in this project and wanted to make it a statewide project. This project will give KCTCS the bandwidth it will need to be future-ready and to scale to the needs of our future programs, students, faculty, and staff, Czarapata said.

HCTC is part of Kentucky s Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR). HCTC and four other eastern KCTCS colleges have been designated Community Anchor Institutions and will serve as distribution hubs for connectivity with new buildings to house fiber optic cable built on their properties. This makes KCTCS colleges a priority location for creating improved coverage in communities throughout the commonwealth.
Kentucky is at the bottom of the list nationally when it comes to broadband accessibility and speed, but will become one of the top in the nation when the Kentucky Wired project is complete. This means not only greater access and speed for individuals and existing organizations, but also makes costs more competitive nationally making the region and the state more attractive to business.

The SOAR colleges will offer new classes in coding and other technology skills as well as classes in fiber optics. Skilled workers who can install fiber optic cable will be in demand during the construction phase of Kentucky Wired.

According to state officials, Kentucky Wired is unlike any public infrastructure project in Kentucky in the last 50 years. The eastern Kentucky region will be the first priority, with work expected to be completed by April 2016.