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, PA 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, Director of IT, and his team worked with Bradford County and The Progress Authority on a feasibility study in 2017 to determine the viability of an open access fiber optic network, that would then be available for lease by internet service providers, cellular carriers and businesses that would like to connect their buildings.
"It’s crazy to think that in 2017 internet service is still unavailable or unreliable to many rural areas,” Ryan reported recently.
The map above shows the lack of broadband accessibility across Pennsylvania. Red and brown areas having the slowest connections. Only the green areas meet the FCC's minimum speed for broadband connectivity.
Due to the positive results of the study, the commissioners have recently dedicated $5.2 million to the development of the dark fiber network. This will 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 commissioners plan to work directly with the private sector to lease space along the lines. The dark fiber will also be used to strengthen the counties existing emergency services communication and expand cellular coverage in the county by installing towers in remote locations of the county.
They have allocated the money to match a current grant in order to develop three dark fiber loops, starting at the Route 6 corridor between Towanda and Troy and continuing along the county’s main corridors.
HUNT continued to serve the County by providing surveying services, obtaining permits as well as designing the network infrastructure itself.
There’s excitement in the community surrounding this project as well as an urgency for completion. Commissioner Ed Bustin stated, “This is going to happen. We have to get this done.”