[This is an excerpt from an article published in the Huntingdon Daily News, Feb 9th, 2024]
Thomas was asked about his role as chairman of Alleghenies Broadband Cooperative, a nonprofit organization working to expand broadband infrastructure in the region.
McClure recalled that in 2023, ABC was awarded $20 million and half of that came to Huntingdon County. She asked Thomas to give an update on the project.
Thomas started by recapping that several million dollars of American Rescue Plan Act funds have already been spent in the county on updating equipment to provide wireless broadband for hundreds of residents and businesses in areas that didn’t have internet service previously.
He went on to talk about the federal grant McClure asked about that is being divided up among three counties, Bedford, Fulton and Huntingdon.
“The amount of work we had hoped to do with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration grant has been pared down drastically,” Thomas replied.
“We will be building six new towers and updating equipment on three existing towers.”
“Even though the scope of the work is reduced, we still hope to make a positive impact by providing wireless broadband to some places that don’t have internet service now. We’re just about ready to start construction as soon as environmental studies and other planning steps are wrapped up.”
Thomas shared that’s less than half of what was hoped to be done initially after the project was reduced because of other federal funding provided to the large phone companies to improve broadband service. But he doesn’t expect those corporations to put money into the rural areas, such as ours.
“Even though the scope of the work is reduced, we still hope to make a positive impact by providing wireless broadband to some places that don’t have internet service now,” Thomas said. “We’re just about ready to start construction as soon as environmental studies and other planning steps are wrapped up.”
He’s hoping the towers will go up this year. And, he said, several regional partner groups continue to work together to explore any further grant funding that becomes available to continue the project.