Area to receive $5.5 million for rural broadband

About $5.5 million in funding over a 10-year period has been authorized to expand broadband services in rural Lycoming County, the Federal Communications Commission announced Monday.

Within three years, Tri-Co Connections, of Mansfield, will build out to reach 40 percent of the anticipated 1,116 of homes or business still without broadband in Lycoming County. Each year beyond that, the expansion will reach 20 percent more ground until the sixth year. After that time, it is expected all of those locations will have access, according to a press release.

Also anticipated at that time is for 1,887 locations in Tioga County to have a broadband connection for about $9 million.

A goal of a download and upload speed of 1 Gigabits per second and 500 megabits per second, respectively, has been set for those areas.

Although a needed move, the total cost to bring all rural communities in Lycoming County broadband connection isn’t known, said Lycoming County Commissioner Jack McKernan, chairman.

In mid-July, Design Nine Inc. held a public meeting to help in its survey of communities to determine that cost. The report, contracted through SEDA ­ Council of Governments for about $300,000, is expected to be complete by the end of this month with a public meeting publishing the results of the study slated for early September.

The commissioners will seek to obtain whatever remaining monies the report reveals through state or Act 13 funding in order to bring about the county’s rural broadband connection, said McKernan.

“It’s a top priority for the commissioners’ office and for the people with the county,” he said.

Those who live in remote locations struggle with a menagerie of issues related to their lack of connection, from cellular-related health apparatus, education to starting businesses.

“In Pennsylvania, this round of funding takes another step toward closing the digital divide, providing access to digital opportunity to over 7,000 unserved rural homes and business,” said Ajit Pai, FFC chairman, in a press release.

Other Pennsylvania counties to receive money were Bradford County, $147,297, for 38 locations and Potter County, $17,608,376, for 3,974 locations. About $32.3 million were given to all 4 counties through this federal allocation.

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