While many urban areas struggle with the cost and quality of bandwidth available to them, many rural areas have been left behind. The critical infrastructure needed to provide equal bandwidth to rural residents for services such as phone, 911, internet, and cable television does not exist and must be financially justified by the service providers to build. This infrastructure is also used by schools and local businesses and, consequently, dramatically impacts the socio-economic makeup of a community. As rural communities struggle to keep up with the ever-growing need to be “connected”, local legislators are beginning to act in order to make a difference. Bradford County Pennsylvania is one such community where the commissioners have decided to entertain options beyond relying on the broadband internet service providers.
To that end, Ryan Garrison, HUNT Director of IT, and his team are working with Bradford County and The Progress Authority on a feasibility study through 2017 to determine the viability of an open access fiber optic network, that would be available for use by all service providers. This would create the necessary infrastructure to encourage broadband internet service providers to expand services in the rural areas of Bradford County as well as encourage economic development in the region. The dark fiber would also be used to strengthen the counties existing emergency services communication and expand cellular coverage in the county.
"It’s crazy to think that in 2017 internet service is still unavailable or unreliable to many rural areas,” Ryan reported recently. Many service providers find it hard to justify the costs of building to rural areas so in order to improve the situation in Bradford County, the commissioners will be conducting a feasibility study to build a fiber ring around the county that would then be available for lease by internet service providers, cellular carriers and business that would like to connect their buildings. Because the “Middle Mile” is the most expensive piece, building a fiber network throughout the county would provide multiple opportunities for providers and businesses. It would open the doors for all, creating options and competition.