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Broadband feasibility explored for rural Lycoming County

Many rural areas of the nation, including much of Lycoming County, are not served by broadband.

But that can change if residents, community leaders and business owners commit to wanting the high-speed service.

A number of residents attended a public meeting in Williamsport Wednesday toward developing strategies for expanding broadband to the area.

SEDA-Council of Governments as well as Lycoming, Union, Clinton and Northumberland counties are conducting the broadband survey.

Jack Maytum, Design Nine Inc., senior broadband analyst, outlined some of the steps toward making it happen in Lycoming County.

He said the goal is to bring the best service to the most residents.

He stressed that broadband is essential for many businesses which rely on the ever-changing technology that cries for high-speed internet.

“This is a long-term commitment,” he said, noting that funding and citizen involvement will play a big part in making it happen.

Precisely how to fund it and manage the network are among the critical questions.

Maytum said it’s important that political leaders and others understand the critical need for broadband toward boosting economic development.

He explained that rural areas without broadband face a big obstacle in attracting industry and business to their areas.

The good news, he said, is that broadband is overcoming the resistance it initially encountered from many people who failed to see its benefits.

“I think the climate has changed,” he said.

In fact, some parts of the nation without broadband are all but desperate for having it, according to Maytum.

Lycoming County Commissioner Jack McKernan noted that it could prove expensive to bring broadband across a county as large as Lycoming.

He said it might require hiring consultants to ascertain what particular areas of the county to connect.

Maytum said broadband networks can be built incrementally.

That can demonstrate, he said, that serious attempts are being made to bring high-speed service and convince more people to want it.

The $80,000 study is being funded by a $40,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Study, with each of the four counties kicking in $10,000 as matching funds.

Another public meeting is expected to be held in August to further explore options for broadband. Residents can take an online survey to help come up with a plan.

The survey can be found at http://projects.designnine.com/survey/sedacog-residential-broadband.

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