Broadband expansion further looked into

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Matt Hoppes, owner/CEO of River Valley Internet asks a question during a meeting on bringing broadband internet service to rural areas of Lycoming County at the Trade and Transit Centre II Tuesday.

Just a handful of the many Lycoming County residents who want to see expansion of broadband service attended a meeting in Williamsport Tuesday night to consider plans for making such a goal come to fruition.

Jack Maytum, senior broadband analyst, Design Nine Inc., outlined strategies for connecting a wireless and fiber network across the county.

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

An initial meeting was held in July.

Bringing high speed to rural areas is vital, Maytum said, especially in helping businesses in those locations grow and provide better service to customers.

Another desire for the service comes from a public safety point of view.

The goal is to bring the best service to the most people.

Maytum said in building out the high-speed communications network it’s possible to use cell towers while also erecting new infrastructure.

A draft plan pointed to three sites in Lycoming County where the initial broadband expansion could occur.

The sites in the city’s industrial park, Wolf Township and Pine Township would require the building of 10 towers and upgrading of several others.

The cost would be $2.3 million, Maytum said.

Several people questioned why those sites were proposed when other areas of Lycoming County are far more under-served by high-speed broadband.

Maytum noted that those three areas could be used to project how much it would cost to connect the entire county.

“It’s just a draft plan,” he said. “This is not a done project.”

Many people initially resistant to high-speed broadband now see its benefits, according to Maytum.

Lycoming County Commissioner Rick Mirabito said he’d like to see it happen soon across Lycoming County.

“It’s an exciting first step into interconnectivity,” he said.

He noted that coming up with a solid plan can be the key to financing the project and finding other funding sources.

The ultimate goal, Maytum said, is to bring a fiber network to everyone.

“In order for wireless to survive you need a robust fiber network,” Maytum said. “You need both to have a robust communications system.”