Commissioners OK broadband plans

[The following article appeared in the Huntingdon Daily News, November 10th, 2021]


Huntingdon County Commissioners approved awarding two proposals to help expand broadband internet service to underserved and unserved areas of the county at their weekly meeting Tuesday morning.


Additionally, they approved a cooperative agreement with Alleghenies Broadband Inc. (ABI) to help the county administer the American Rescue Plan funds designated for broadband internet to help with this expansion.


The vote was 2-0, with commissioners Mark Sather and Scott Walls voting “yes.” Commissioner Jeff Thomas, who serves as director of the board for ABI, abstained from voting for these measures, as he noted it would be a likely conflict of interest to vote for the measures.


According to Brandon Carson, ABI executive director, requests for proposals were requested from companies in July, and three offers were submitted for Huntingdon County specifically in August.


“It’s good to have these diverse groups coming together to form ABI to help us in the county.” - Mark Sather, Huntingdon County Commissioner

“The first proposal was from Upward Broadband for $1,401,376 for 15 towers, which broken down would be around $1,280 per household or business. This is projected to serve a total of 1,095 households” he said. “The second proposal was from Crowsnest for $79,799, which is about $318 per household for a total of 250 households.


“The third proposal was from Rural Broadband Cooperative, which would serve 650 households, with a total cost of $1,565,000, which would break down to $2,408 per household.”


The per household cost is specifically for the total cost divided by the number of projected households. None of these costs will be passed to the homeowner or business.


Sather and Walls specifically voted for the plan from Upward Broadband and Crowsnest.

This is out of the first half of the funds the county received from the American Rescue Plan, which totals $4.4 million. The second half is also around $4 million.


Additionally, a 7% administration fee to ABI was also approved for each project; however, the administrative fees are not to exceed 7%.


James Lettiere, county planning director, noted the expansion of broadband internet is part of the six-county comprehensive plan — Alleghenies Ahead.


“This was one of the main goals — to expand broadband,” he said.


Thomas noted the county has applied for more funding to reach even more areas that will not be reached under these proposals, even considering fiber options, as both of these options are fixed wireless internet.


Sather noted that these projects can be short-term projects, at least compared to fiber-based projects, which will take longer.


“We wanted to utilize this federal funding to help residents, and these plans were the most efficient,” he said.


Other counties have already started to work with ABI, including Bedford County, and ABI hopes to cover the six-county region covered in the Alleghenies Ahead plan to go forward.


“It’s good to have these diverse groups coming together to form ABI to help us in the county,” said Sather.

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