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Tri-County gets $2.5 million grant for fiber project

MANSFIELD — Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative has been awarded a $2.5 million grant by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to construct 175 miles of fiber optic line that will deliver reliable broadband internet service to underserved areas of north-central Pennsylvania.

The grant, announced Oct. 9 will be used to bring access to high-speed internet to over 500 households and 60 businesses in areas of Tioga, Potter and Lycoming counties where there is limited or no access to broadband service.

Tri-County, through its broadband subsidiary company, Tri-Co Connections, will begin physical construction of its fiber system in the Coudersport area of Potter County by the end of the year. The cooperative’s fiber-to-the-home project entails construction of 3,200 miles of fiber optic line across Tri-County’s 5,000-square-mile service territory and will take six years to complete.

“I am extremely pleased the Appalachian Regional Commission has agreed to support much-need broadband development in our region,” said Craig Eccher, Tri-County president and chief executive officer, in a press release. “This grant will greatly assist our efforts to provide first-class internet service in rural north-central Pennsylvania, which will have a lasting positive economic impact on the region and deliver quality-of-life benefits to our

consumer-members for years to come.”

According to a press release, the grant was one of 54 investments totaling $44.4 million via ARC’s Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative, a congressionally funded opportunity targeting federal resources to help communities and regions that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America’s energy production.

“I congratulate Tri-County for being an FY 2019 POWER grantee, and commend them on the leadership they have shown in their community,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas in a press release. “POWER grants are playing a critical role in supporting coal-impacted communities in the Appalachian Region as they diversify economies, invest in growth-oriented infrastructure, train a next-generation workforce, and ingrain resiliency and hope into their local fabric. Projects like this help ensure a prosperous future for Appalachia.”

From 2007 to 2017, Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative’s service region experienced a 66 percent decrease in the number of active coal mines, with a drop of 42 percent in mine employment.

The new fiber network will help bolster economic development, assist educational institutions, provide telemedicine opportunities for area hospitals, assist healthcare workers in addressing the opioid crisis, and help prevent youth out-migration, according to Thomas.

Tri-County will be providing $3.2 million for the project within the area covered by the ARC grant.

The Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.

With headquarters in Mansfield, Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative has served the residents of northcentral Pennsylvania since 1937. Today the cooperative provides electricity to over 16,600 members in Tioga, Potter, Bradford, Lycoming, Clinton, McKean and Cameron counties.

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