Broadband Internet Service
From the very earliest days of the Wayne Tomorrow! Initiative, the various working groups identified the need for affordable, high-speed broadband internet service as a top priority. The partners recognized that internet availability is paramount to economic development and quality of life.
The Wayne County Commissioners and the Wayne Economic Development Corp. (WEDCO) have been working with a committee of technology professionals and a consultant to identify ways to expand access to broadband internet in under served parts of the community. As part of a long-term project, the consultant has been developing a project to build "middle mile" infrastructure that local Internet Service Providers (ISP) can then tap into.
With this investment, the county hopes to encourage private sector investment in the "final mile" that would then provide the internet service directly to a residence or business.
CARES Act Funding
With the COVID-19 outbreak, the need for broadband internet access has become critical for everything from work to education to health care, as well as for staying connected to the world and each other. When the federal government released CARES Act funding to the states and eventually to Wayne County, the Commissioners quickly earmarked $1.4 million for broadband infrastructure.
However, because the CARES funding must be spent to bring more homes and businesses online by the end of the year, the county, in conjunction with the consultant, is working with the local ISPs to identify possible projects they are working on that could be rolled out by year's end with the benefit of CARES funding.
Wayne County Uses CARES Act Fund to Support Broadband Project
HONESDALE -- The Wayne County Commissioners today approved nearly $1.2 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security (CARES) Act grants to expand broadband capabilities in the county. Following discussions and solicitation of proposals from local service providers, the county identified six projects intended to improve Internet access to homes and businesses. These projects include:
- $17,079.40 to support the Wayne Library Alliance "Smart Library" initiative. This will include access equipment and services that will be made available for loan to as many as 60 residents at one time.
- ICON Technologies will receive $361,887 to expand its fixed wireless broadband network that extends into areas where cable or fiber services are unavailable. The project will include tower work and other equipment that will cover 425 square miles and more than 22,000 people.
- $30,000 will go to the Wayne Highlands School District to expand its information technology network and provide more and better access for students with an increased dependency on broadband service to receive instruction and complete classwork.
- Laurel Highlands Total Communications will use $116,000 to replace critical central office equipment needed to maintain and expand residential and business broadband throughout its service territory in the west central area of Wayne County.
- Laurel Highlands will also receive $448,942 to expand fiber connectivity to five presently unserved areas encompassing up to 75 homes.
- Adams Cable will also expand service area in the Lake Ariel region to include up to 68 homes at a cost of $212,772.
“We have identified rural broadband upgrades as the top need in Wayne County for years and thanks to the CARES Act funding, we were finally able to take a giant leap forward toward that goal,” Wayne County Commissioners Brian Smith, Joe Adams and Jocelyn Cramer said. “We thank our local telecommunication companies for working with us to identify areas of need and agreeing to work quickly to bring high speed Internet to potentially thousands of customers. And we appreciate the Wayne Highlands School District and the Wayne Library Alliance for thinking outside the box to serve their communities during this pandemic that has dictated we change the way people work, learn and live.”
Federal CARES funding is provided to Wayne County through the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development, which has developed procedures that apply to broadband initiatives undertaken by counties. Projects must be completed and proposed broadband services must be available before December 30, 2020. Project sponsors that fail to meet the deadline will be ineligible for reimbursement and will be required to return any funding already received.