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Appalachian Regional Commission Grants Will Help Expand Broadband in Coal Communities

Friday October 18th, 2019
The Appalachian Regional Commission has announced a $44.4 million investment package to expand and diversify the economy in Appalachia’s coal-impacted communities through the POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative.
 
These awards are projected to create or retain over 5,700 jobs, leverage more than $39 million in private investment, create and/or retain 2,940 businesses, and train thousands of workers and students in nine Appalachian states.
 
Grants awarded in Pennsylvania for broadband initiatives include:
 
• $2,500 grant to Tioga County in Wellsboro for the Northern Pennsylvania Broadband Connectivity Project. Tioga County, in conjunction with Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative, will construct more than 175 miles of fiber in three counties -- Tioga, Potter, and Lycoming -- to bring access to reliable high-speed broadband to 60 businesses and 581 households in one of the most underserved areas of rural Pennsylvania.
 
From 2007-2017, Tri-County Electric Cooperative’s service area saw a 66% decrease in the number of active coal mines, resulting in a drop of 42% in mine employment.
 
The new fiber network will help bolster economic development, assist educational institutions, provide telemedicine opportunities for area hospitals, assist health care workers in addressing the opioid crisis, and help prevent youth out-migration. Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative is providing $3,242,125 for the project.
 
• $50,000 grant to the Greene County Board of Commissioners in Waynesburg for the Rural Broadband Coverage and Feasibility Study. This study will identify county-wide gaps in broadband access and determine the best technology to fill these gaps, such as fiber, white space, cable, and DSL.
 
When Greene County, which has experienced significant mining job losses, updated its comprehensive plan in 2018, the top-ranked issue identified was a need to expand broadband access.
 
The feasibility study will review the county’s broadband assets, conduct a field survey of existing broadband access, determine customer demand, identify the best technology options for service gaps, and develop an implementation matrix.
 
• $50,000 grant to the Southern Alleghenies Planning & Development Commission in Altoona, Blair County, for the South-Central Pennsylvania Broadband Infrastructure Assessment. This feasibility study will identify ways of increasing broadband and cellular services to residents and businesses in an eight-county region of south-central Pennsylvania.
 
The eight counties in the region have experienced economic downturn as a result of the decline of mining and manufacturing industries, and expanded broadband access could create new economic opportunities.
 
The study will identify the broadband assets already in place, assess community broadband requirements, identify the best technology to meet the needs, and provide cost estimates for different deployment strategies.
 
For more information on this program, visit the ARC’s POWER Initiative webpage.