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More broadband funds pledged


HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County commissioners agreed Thursday to pledge $250,000 toward another broadband internet access improvement project, subject to the project receiving federal funding allocated through the state.


Commissioners Bruce Erb, Laura Burke and Amy Webster voted Thursday to designate $250,000 from the county’s American Rescue Plan Act allocation toward the proposed project that’s expected to introduce a mix of fiber optic internet and wireless connections to introduce and enhance internet access in the Williamsburg area and in Juniata Township.





Alleghenies Broadband Inc. recently asked the commissioners to designate the money and to supply a letter of support for the project proposed by Crowsnest Broadband LLC of Woodbury.


The county’s letter is to be submitted to Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority, which will be evaluating a $500,000 funding request for the project.

Because Crowsnest is pledging $250,000 toward the project, the county’s $250,000 pledge will complete the required match for the project, county leaders said Thursday.


Erb said that if this project is pursued, it will affect 593 locations, including 423 that currently have no internet service. It’s expected to improve internet speeds at 136 additional locations and at 34 locations identified as underserved by current internet providers.


“I think this would be a really good investment of our ARPA funds,” Erb said of the proposed project.


Thursday’s vote was the second time in two weeks that commissioners have committed ARPA money toward broadband access improvements. On July 27, commissioners authorized $333,606 for a broadband internet expansion project that ABI Inc. and Crowsnest proposed, with a targeted completion date for the end of September.


If this project is pursued, it will affect 593 locations, including 423 that currently have no internet service. It’s expected to improve internet speeds at 136 additional locations and at 34 locations identified as underserved by current internet providers.

In that effort, Crowsnest is expected to add equipment to cell towers in nine locations, thereby improving or introducing internet access for 1,700 users. The cell towers identified to receive additional equipment are located in the Rose Hill, Kettle Road, Eldorado and Horseshoe Curve areas of Altoona and in the Loop Mountain, Cove Lane, Williamsburg, Fredericksburg and Curryville areas of southern Blair County.


Commissioners also agreed Thursday to write a letter of support for a broadband internet access improvement project that Verizon is developing for the northern areas of the county that would include Tyrone and Snyder Township.


Verizon didn’t ask the county for money, but advised the county that it is seeking a $9 million grant from the Broadband Infrastructure Program toward what it projects to be a $24.5 million project that it will support with a $15.5 million commitment.


County Administrator/Chief Clerk Nicole Hemminger said Thursday that ABI Inc. reviewed Verizon’s proposal for Blair County and found that it fits in with other projects and won’t be duplicative.


Both Webster and Burke spoke favorably of supporting internet access improvements in the northern portion of the county.


“So much growth has occurred there over the last 10 to 20 years,” Webster said.

Commissioners have already fielded improvement requests, according to Burke.

“It’s an area where we get a lot of complaints and questions about whether we’re going to do a project up there,” Burke said.


Commissioners are also on record in support of a project that Comcast Cable Communications LLC proposed in the Tyrone and Williamsburg areas and in Blair County’s northwestern corner.

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