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Local broadband company looking for any dead spots

Allegheny Broadband Inc. wants individuals, businesses and municipalities to let it know where the dead spots are.

If ABI can learn where broadband service in Blair County is absent or inadequate, it can tap into $1.2 billion in federal money that Pennsylvania has received.

Living in Altoona, it’s easy not to be aware that there are many places in the countryside where reasonably fast broadband service is inaccessible, said Lee Slusser, director of planning and community development for the Southern Alleghenies Planning & Development Commission, at a meeting Thursday.

Slusser, 53, grew up on a farm in Crawford County and would have no idea now how to farm in a modern way, where reliance on the internet runs through almost everything from mapping fields, GPS on equipment and setups for cow breeding and tracking milk production.

“It’s a different world,” he said. “I’d be unable to survive.”

Nowadays, internet service is critical for employment, education, communication, recreation, entertainment, commerce and ordinary household needs, according to a slide presented at the meeting, which was run by Blair Planning Director Dave McFarland.

But problem areas persist for broadband — and for cell service — including in Williamsburg, where McFarland lives, he said.

Nowadays, internet service is critical for employment, education, communication, recreation, entertainment, commerce and ordinary household needs.

He’s still limited to dial-up internet, and he still uses a flip phone, because a smart phone wouldn’t be useful when he’s home, he said.

The persistence of the problem generally reflects provider decisions not to invest in expensive installation of fiber optic lines in areas where customer revenues wouldn’t provide sufficient return on investment, officials said.

Since 2019, Crowsnest Wireless has helped by installing fiber-fed towers that connect with home-installed dishes through line-of-sight to provide broadband. That effort has been especially successful in Sinking Valley.

To help fill in the remaining gaps, unserved or underserved individuals and businesses should call ABI Project Manager Rachel Papuga at 814-979-8805.

Residents can also help ABI find unserved and underserved areas by filling out a Connectivity and Digital Access Survey, available through the Department of Community & Economic Development, whose mailing address is 400 North St., Fourth Floor, Harrisburg PA 17120.

Williamsburg, PA is one of the many communities in Blair County without high-speed internet.

Areas are unserved if service is possible, but reliable download speeds are less than 25 megabytes per second, upload speeds are less than 3 mps and there is lagging, according to Papuga.

Areas are considered underserved if reliable download speeds are less than 100 mps, with upload speeds of less than 20 mps and there is problematic latency.

Absent service or slow service makes it impossible or difficult for students during days when in-person school is canceled and when residents want to watch movies or play video games.

ABI will work with fiber optic-based providers Breezeline and Comcast and with Crowsnest.

Papuga will also welcome calls about absent or spotty cell service.

In addition to lack of physical infrastructure, cost and lack of familiarity with the internet are also barriers that ABI and Blair Planning would like to overcome.

Households can receive discounts for broadband service through the Affordable Connectivity Program if their income is no higher than 200 percent of federal poverty levels or if a member of the household receives help from any of several programs, including SNAP, Medicaid or WIC.

Households can apply at

The additional meetings: 6:30 p.m. Dec. 14, Northern Blair Senior Center; 6:30 p.m. Dec. 18, Williamsburg Senior Center; 6:30 p.m. Dec. 19, Southern Blair Senior Center.

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