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Rural broadband one step closer

BRural broadband service is one step closer to reality following a vote by the Lycoming County Commissioners to award a request for proposal for rural broadband deployment to Windstream LLC, an internet service provider.

In addition to Lycoming County, Union, Clinton and Northumberland counties are involved in the project area. Union County is the lead county on the project, according to Scott Kramer, from the SEDA Council of Governments.

Kramer said that $2 million in funding per county was obtained from various sources for the project.

The need for broadband was identified in a 2018 feasibility study funded by the individual counties and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

“That study we commissioned was looking at all aspects of broadband within those four counties and one of the main things that we found is those trouble areas and dark areas that are in need of broadband,” Kramer said.

Kramer said that from that study, it was decided, rather than a government entity building the infrastructure, to fund the implementation by internet service providers.

“What we found is that the ISP’s (internet service providers) really liked to be involved with that to prevent overbuilding and to just keep the infrastructure the way they need it,” he said.

He said that through the request for proposal process, the providers were given requirements such as speed and the amount of people and businesses that would be using the service. He added that there is a lot of money coming from the federal government for broadband.

Commissioner Scott Metzger pointed out that because of the pandemic with people working from home and schools doing remote learning, the need for rural broadband became an issue.

“We have an opportunity in Lycoming County as people are moving out of the city. We’re within three to four hours of six or seven major cities. We have an opportunity to attract those individuals here,” Metzger added.

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