Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Bedford County and Alleghenies Broadband Inc. (ABI) are moving forward with the first phase of their plan to expand internet service to unserved and underserved areas in the county.
Crowsnest Broadband of Woodbury was selected as the provider for the first phase of the wireless expansion efforts, which will include the purchase and installation of wireless equipment on 21 existing towers.
“The agreement states that the hanging of equipment and getting these projects up and running on these existing towers would be done by next July, but the goal is to have it finished and operational by the end of December of this year,” Commissioner Deb Baughman said. “That would mean up to 3,900 customers in Bedford County will be able to access high speed broadband.”
The commissioners approved the project during their meeting on Tuesday.
The county and ABI announced in June a proposal that would expand broadband internet coverage to 95% of the county’s population within the next three years.
That proposal would be done in three phases, with the first two focusing on fixed wireless service. It is similar to the work Crowsnest and the county completed in 2020 using federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding.
“Fixed wireless is a good way for many locations here in Bedford County, Baughman said. “With our rural area with lots of bridges and valleys, hard to reach places, and few residents in certain areas, fixed wireless is a very good fix.”
Crowsnest offers fixed wireless broadband internet service via line-of-sight radio receiver/transmitters. A radio antenna will be installed at customers’ properties that will receive a broadband signal from the nearby tower. An ethernet cable will run from the outdoor antenna to a router inside the home or business.
“The agreement states that the hanging of equipment and getting these projects up and running on these existing towers would be done by next July, but the goal is to have it finished and operational by the end of December of this year. That would mean up to 3,900 customers in Bedford County will be able to access high speed broadband.” -- Bedford County Commissioner Deb Baughman
The 21 towers will provide the option for access to residents across different parts of the county. The towers are located in the areas of Blue Knob, Burning Bush, Centerville, Central City, Cumberland Valley, Clearville, Cruse, Bedford, Gapsville, Hyndman, Manns Choice, Milligans Cove, Mount Dallas, New Enterprise, Pleasantville, Reynoldsdale, Saxton, Schellsburg, at the state line and in Windber.
Of the 21 proposed towers, four will be supplied with fiber-optic service, while others will be linked with commercial wireless backhauls that feature high internet speeds and low latency, the commissioners said in a release.
Customers will receive internet with speeds up to 150 Mbps download and 50 Mbps upload.
“These speeds will comfortably meet the needs of families making particularly heavy use of video gaming, video calls and file sharing, and also, it’s a good solution for large businesses needing to upload large data files or use video call extensively,” Baughman said.
A second tier of the county’s broadband work is expected to include constructing new towers to expand service in the southeastern corner of the county. A third tier will focus on fiber optic internet connectivity and would expand beyond 2023.