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Potter County Investigating ‘Broadband For All’ Options

July 20th, 2021

As has been made crystal clear by the coronavirus pandemic and other changes in society, high-speed internet service is rapidly evolving from a lifestyle option to a necessity across Pennsylvania. In response, the Revitalize Potter County Steering Committee has made the expansion of broadband service one of its highest priorities. It offers opportunities for economic development, expansion of health care and education, and many other public benefits, according to Potter County Planning/GIS Director Will Hunt. He is joined on the committee by Community Development Director Ellen Russell and Commissioners Nancy Grupp, Paul Heimel and Barry Hayman.

Many Potter County households and businesses have no high-speed internet service or lack sufficient capacity to meet today’s demands. Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative’s (REC) high-speed internet project, which has already connected more than 1,000 Potter County customers, is filling many of the gaps. The steering committee is focusing on areas that are not serviced by Tri-Co Connections.

County leaders learned through extensive public surveying related to the 2020-29 Countywide Comprehensive Plan that expansion of broadband service is a high priority. “We are now taking steps to identify gaps in broadband service in and around Potter County, and to help identify potential partners and funding sources to fill the gaps,” Hunt explained. He added that the committee will be reaching out to service providers, as well as school districts, townships and boroughs, to investigate partnerships.

The committee has compiled an assessment as follows:

Opportunities

  • Improving the quality of life for Potter County residents by closing the gap of the “digital divide.”
  • Providing, through strategic partnerships, services to residents who currently do not have access to internet service of 25mb or greater speed, both download and upload;
  • Accessing funds that are being made available from the federal and state governments to support the build-out in underserved areas.

Challenges

  • Identify the homes and businesses not adequately served.
  • Investigate partnerships and/or incentives to attract service providers.
  • Development of delivery infrastructure, spearheaded by the county government with private-sector partners.

Steps Forward

  • Conduct a feasibility study for development of expanded broadband service.
  • Identify public and private partners/consultants to serve on or advise the committee.
  • Research and analyze best practices from across the U.S.
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